'Perfect' by Ed Sheeran: A Curmudgeon's Take

Photo by Greg Williams.

Photo by Greg Williams.

Because "God's Plan" by Drake remains in the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100, this week let's consider "Perfect" by Ed Sheeran. The track hit the top of the chart in December, and has been lurking in the No. 2 slot for a few weeks now. The song is the fourth single from Sheeran's most recent album, last year's gazillion-selling "÷." 

Pitchfork gave the album, Sheeran's third, an anemic 2.8 rating. That would ordinarily strike me as standard hipper-than-thou bullshit, except that "Perfect" is pure schlock, on the order of James Blunt's "You're Beautiful." As it happens, Sheeran has said he was inspired to write the song after visiting Blunt, which is so perfectly, horribly symmetrical that you couldn't possibly make it up.

Anyway, Sheeran wrote it for his fiancé, who he's known since they were kids. No surprise, then, that it's a love song celebrating a youthful infatuation that blossoms over time, and through twists and turns, into something deep and lasting and surely not at all nauseating to anyone close enough to witness the perfect couple exchanging schmoopies and rubbing noses. Sheeran has a pleasant voice, and he's a good songwriter in a structural sense — you don't pile up tens of millions of streams and downloads if you're not. "Perfect" is just so corny: "When you said you looked a mess, I whispered underneath my breath/ But you heard it, darling, you look perfect tonight," he sings in the first of three variations on the chorus.

Somehow he talked Beyoncé into a duet version, and Andrea Bocelli into a symphonic rendition, neither of which improves measurably on the one Sheeran recorded for the album, though they've probably added at least one zero to the royalty checks he's getting. Also, this guy plays shows by himself, in stadiums. He has a pair of dates booked at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., Sept. 14-15. Thinking I'll probably sit them out, but have fun if you go.