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New Ed Sheeran album is another easy-on-the-ear, feel-good album

26-year-old British singer-songwriter made Billboard history in January



Ed Sheeran, gay news, Washington Blade

Ed Sheeran stays on course musically with his new album. (Photo courtesy Atlantic Records)

British singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran just turned 26 and he’s already one of the world’s biggest pop stars thanks to two mega-smash albums and a string of chart-topping singles.

All signs point to a third blockbuster with the just-released “÷” (pronounced “divide”). There’s zero doubt that “÷” will storm the Billboard 200 and debut at no. 1, as did his 2014 release “x.” Sheeran is already ensconced at the top of the U.S. singles chart, where “Shape of You” has reigned for six weeks. Sheeran made Hot 100 history in January when he became the first artist to have two songs debut in the Top 10 the same week: “Shape of You” at no. 1, and “Castle on the Hill” at no. 6.

Sheeran is riding high thanks to an earnest blend of folky guitar-pop with brushes of modern electronica, a winsomely photogenic appearance, mild and reedy tenor vocals that practically ooze sincerity and the glossy commercial sheen of his music. Of course, like many mainstream artists who reach such complete cultural saturation, Sheeran has his share of detractors who are dismissive of his mild-mannered music and persona. The condescension by “serious” critics and music aficionados is so toxic that it’s almost enough to make one like Sheeran out of spite — if only his music could be taken out of the equation.

Don’t expect great depth of feeling or originality on most of “÷.” Sheeran dabbles with different sonic flavors, but overall he stays within his same tried-and-tested formula. He opens with a bit of quasi-rapping on “Eraser,” an autobiographical track about the trials and tribulations of being a rich and famous pop star. “I think that money is the root of all evil/and fame is hell,” he declares. Poor guy. Yeah, it sucks to be adored by millions, richer than God, and still be all sad and misunderstood.

Sheehan injects some Celtic flavor on “Galway Girl,” another song on which he attempts to rap during the verses and then sings a soaring chorus over lines of fiddle that seem more like appropriation than homage. It’s cultural window dressing. “Shape of Things” is already guaranteed to be one of the year’s biggest singles, and it’s easy to see why. Sheehan develops a pseudo-Caribbean vibe with an electronic marimba-like hook and a funky groove to back up the irresistibly upbeat, radio-friendly melody.

“Castle on the Hill” is a nostalgic rocker with an anthemic, arena-rock chorus that will appeal to the more rock-inclined members of Sheehan’s fan-base (assuming any exist). “Dive” is a bluesy ballad on which Sheeran goes for broke on a full-throttle attempt at an impassioned vocal, but it comes off ponderous and overwrought, emotionally on par with something we might hear from Creed. “What Do I Know?” is a peppy acoustic pop ditty that comes and goes without much impact, but it’s melodic bounciness will surely find enthusiastic support at pop radio.

As one would expect, there are no shortage of ballads. “Perfect,” with its sparse electronic beats, unobtrusive acoustic guitar and flowery strings, will be a monster hit for sure. “Hearts Don’t Break Around Here” is lovely and sentimental, while “How Would You Feel (Paean)” is highlighted by guest John Mayer’s dulcet guitar solo. The finale “Supermarket Flowers” is the strongest moment on the album, a genuinely moving portrait of loss and grief that Sheehan wrote in tribute to his late grandmother.

There are enough commercial tracks on “÷” to keep Sheehan riding high on the charts for many months to come. The album may be somewhat bland and safe, but it’s generally well crafted and there are a few excellent moments. Sheeran is undoubtedly talented. His music isn’t for everyone, but if you liked him before, you’ll like the new album.

Providing moments of happiness and refuge via music, especially at a tumultuous time when so many are riven by woe and anxiety, is a fantastic and profound gift.


Music & Concerts

New dance single pays tribute to Town Danceboutique

Local musicians pen ‘Town’ in honor of shuttered club



Bryce Bowyn (Photo by Clarissa Villondo)

The closing of the LGBTQ nightclub Town Danceboutique in the summer of 2017 was heartbreaking to local musician Bryce Bowyn. He and his Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter friend Lexie Martin decided to honor its legacy in their new single, “Town.”

For Bowyn, who moved to the District about a decade ago to attend school at American University, the memories he has from Town Danceboutique are endless. And when it closed, it was a massive loss to Bowyn and many others. 

“It was such a cool space,” Bowyn said. “It was just disappointing to see a place that brought so many people together become part of the landscape again.” The building Town Danceboutique used to be housed in is now home to upscale apartments and a CVS. 

Town Danceboutique was a formative place for Bowyn and Martin, and it was Bowyn’s first experience in an open and accepting LGBTQ environment. His favorite memories at the club were always on Halloween, he said. Patrons, including Bowyn, would go all out with their costumes to look their very best. 

Bowyn and Martin met while they were both in the musical theater program at American University. Despite their years-long friendship, “Town” is the first song they have written together. They sat down over FaceTime and got to work. It was Martin’s idea to pay homage to Town Danceboutique, and the song follows the story of pre-gaming, going out, and hitting the dance floor. 

But the single also serves as a hype song for going out in any city, at any place. 

“It was important to me for the song to remain relatable and accessible,” Bowyn said. “So the whole foundation of the chorus, ‘Let’s go to town,’ can either mean Town Danceboutique, or painting the town red and having the night of your life.”

Bowyn started writing and producing his own music in 2018. He released an EP titled “A Rosy Retrospect” in 2022, and most recently released a single “A Bridge Burned Down” in June. His music is inspired by late 2000s pop and ‘80s synthpop, influenced by stars like Madonna and Charli XCX. Lexie Martin released her self-titled EP in 2019 and most recently came out with her single “SUPERPOWER” in 2021. 

Bowyn has been a lifelong pop music enthusiast. He distinctly remembers watching Britney Spears perform “Oops!…I Did It Again” at the MTV Video Music Awards when he was a kid and thinking “That was what I wanted and what I was set to do in life.”

“My heart was always with pop music,” Bowyn said. 

“Town” is available now for streaming on Spotify, Apple Music, and Soundcloud.

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Music & Concerts

From Monáe to Madonna, fall will rock in D.C.

Local venues hosting array of queer artists in coming months



Madonna’s delayed tour is slated to hit D.C. Dec. 18 and 19. (Screen capture via YouTube)

The D.C. area has many LGBTQ musical acts to look forward to this fall. Starting with pansexual and nonbinary actor and R&B singer Janelle Monáe, performing at the Anthem on Sept. 24-25 with ticket prices ranging from $135 to $301 on StubHub.

Janelle Monáe comes to the Anthem later this month. (Screen capture via YouTube)

Singer Hozier’s “Unreal Unearth Tour” is coming to the Anthem on Sept. 26-27. Tickets are available on StubHub starting at $324.

On Sept. 28 the CFG Bank Arena in Baltimore will see lesbian pop artist SZA’s “SOS Tour” with tickets starting at $165 on Ticketmaster. 

Queer indie pop singer Ashnikko is coming to the Anthem on Sept. 29 to perform their “Weedkiller Tour.” Tickets available on StubHub range from $49 to $279.

Coming to Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Md., is the All Things Go Festival. Performing are lesbian singers Tegan and Sara, alt-pop singer Lana Del Rey, pop singer Carly Rae Jepson, and more. The festival will take place Sept. 30-Oct. 1 with two day passes starting at $397 on SeatGeek.  

Rock band Queen will perform “The Rhapsody Tour” at the CFG Bank Arena along with Adam Lambert on Oct. 4-5. Tickets are starting at $181 on Ticketmaster. 

Pop star and trans woman Kim Petras’ “Feed the Beast World Tour” will reach the Anthem on Oct 12. Tickets range from $72 to $817 on StubHub. 

Kim Petras brings the ‘Feed the Beast World Tour’ to the Anthem in October. (Photo by Thom Kerr)

Queer pop singer Kesha is coming to the Anthem on Oct. 29 to support her new album, “Gag Order.” Tickets go from $86 to $261 on Event Ticket Center. 

Queer pop rapper Shygirl is co-headlining with bisexual singer Tinashe for the “Nymph” tour at the Anthem on Nov. 5. Tickets range from $45 to $145 on Ticketmaster.

Indie band Men I Trust is performing at Echostage on Nov. 15. Tickets are available on Ticketmaster for $30. 

Nonbinary rapper Lil Uzi Vert’s “PINK TAPE TOUR” will be at the Anthem on Nov. 21. Tickets start at $90 on StubHub. 

Doja Cat’s “The Scarlett Tour” will reach Capital One Arena on Nov. 27. Tickets start at $100 on Ticketmaster. 

Madonna will bring her highly anticipated and delayed “The Celebration Tour” to the Capital One Arena Dec. 18 and 19. Tickets are available on Ticketmaster starting at $110.

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Music & Concerts

Tom Goss to perform at Rehoboth Beach Bear Weekend

Out singer entertains at the Sands Hotel



Tom Goss (Photo by Dusti Cunningham)

Out singer Tom Goss will perform at the Rehoboth Beach Bear Weekend on Saturday, Sept. 16 at 7 and 9 p.m. at the Sands Hotel. 

He will sing his memorable songs like “Son of a Preacher Man” and “Bears,” as well as tracks from his new album, “Remember What It Feels Like,” where he sings about being a 42-year-old gay man still reeling from his husband’s infidelity who was recently conned by a lover with a secret life now serving time in prison. 

Tickets to Rehoboth Beach Bear Weekend start at $20 and can be purchased on Eventbrite

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