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March 27, 2017
by Ruth Gordon, MA, MSW, LCSW

Ed Sheeran -- What’s the Appeal?

March 27, 2017 08:00 by Ruth Gordon, MA, MSW, LCSW  [About the Author]

Ed Sheeran, the musician, is 26 years old. His success is undeniable. Sheeran’s new album, Divide, which was released on March 3, 2017, placed nine of its songs on the top 10 chart in the UK.

  It would not have been predictable, judging by his looks, that Ed would achieve the volume of success and enthusiasm that surrounds him.

  He has ginger hair (as they call it in England), which has never been a favorite of the female set. Anecdotal research has revealed that women are less likely to respond to redheaded men than others. Of course, facial features, skin tone and physique also impact approval ratings. Sheeran does not excel in any of these areas.

  At 5’8” Sheeran falls below the most desired height in men, which rests at 6’. His physique is nothing special — Sheeran has stated that he doesn’t like to work out. It appears likely that most women would overlook Ed in a lineup of tall, muscular,other-than-redheaded individuals. So, what’s the draw?

  Leaving his music aside for a moment, one of the attractions to Ed is his apparent authenticity. Not unlike, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, Ed is a hoodie, tee shirt, jeans and sneakers kind of guy. He looks like the neighbors, the man in the grocery store, the coach, the handyman, and other “regular” kinds of dudes.

  His ginger hair looks unkempt more often than not as does his wispy, feathery beard. All in all, Ed’s looks are far from intimidating. For a young teenager to fantasize about meeting Ed is entirely understandable — he projects approachability.

  He is also, reportedly, a good-natured individual. Sheeran has a wide variety of friends who are celebrities in the music industry. They range from Jamie Foxx (who he lived with at one time) to Elton John to JayZ. This comfort with a broad spectrum of performers implies a chameleon-like quality, which is helpful when one searches for global prominence.

  Ed has a popularity and reputation that has been enhanced by his expertise on social media. He responds to tweets and posts on Facebook and Instagram. Ed shares his everyday lifestyle (pictures of himself with his cat) with his followers on social media, which encourages them to think his life is just like theirs. Having been an ardent fan himself, he knows how to keep his devotees happy. He will greet admirers outside of venues and expresses gratitude (which is genuine)for their support. Sheeran’s musical heroes include Van Morrison, Damien Rice, and Eminem. When he was 11, Sheeran attended a performance by Rice, spoke with him afterward, and maintains that this was the catalyst for his decision to make music his life’s work.

  Sheeran worked hard for his success. He moved to London when he was 17 and played small settings and places with open mic. It is said that he did 312 shows in 2009.  He moved to L.A. at 19 where Jamie Foxx’s manager caught one of his shows. Thus, Sheeran gained access to Foxxx’s home and recording studio.

  Sheeran is self-confident, driven, and extraordinarily competitive. He recently stated that the only singer he has left to outpace is Adele. In school, he reports, he was never the popular kid and did not do well academically. The only music class that has ever been noted was during his first year in London at Bromley-on-Bow. The course was Access to Music.

  Ed’s music has appeal across generations. His ability to switch from ballad to rock n roll to folk to rap — has drawn in an eclectic and, seemingly, an unlimited group who appreciate his virtuosity. He has acknowledged that when he writes a song, he is focused on the success of that particular song.

  Perhaps his ability to focus is a major driving force behind his artistry. He has never sold out to the music industry. He remains true to himself. When Sheeran shows up for a gig, there is no entourage or hoop la. It is just Ed and his guitar and a few pieces of clothing, which are of little interest to him.

  It is not a topic of note, but Sheeran's diction, like his music, is crystal clear. Whether he is singing a rap-inspired song, such as Eraser, which is on his new album, Divide or his acoustic cover of Skinny Love, the listener does not have to strain to hear and understand the lyrics. This fact, alone, can explain his multi-generational allure.

  When discussing his desire to eclipse Adele, the English singer/songwriter whose last album sold 20 million copies he acknowledges the formidable task at hand. He says that once he’s done that he will be satisfied.

  Ed’s friendship with Taylor Swift has been a boon to each of them. They share a painful past of holding little currency with their peers in adolescence. This rejection has spurred a shared competitiveness. Each influences the other to reach ever higher in career goals. Some of Sheeran’s lyrics are indistinguishable from words written by Swift. If the genders are changed, Sheeran’s The Man sounds like it was plucked from Swifts' Better Than Revenge.

  This self-described “weird kid” was born without an eardrum. When a port-wine stain, was removed from his face, he began to stutter. Despite a dearth of physical attributes that are often deemed essential in the pursuit of popular success, Ed simply carried on.

  With a consistent dedication to his craft and his refusal to conform to industry standards, he has scored impressive achievements, and he is only 26. Whatever gave Ed Sheeran his inner strength and willingness to put his authenticity out there has, to say the least, served him very well.

  Sheeran’s success underlines the importance of self-knowledge, persistence and a willingness to work relentlessly toward a goal. He has come out the other side of “weird” and evolved into a distinctive personality. He serves as an inspiration to those who are endeavoring to be exactly who they are supposed to be.


Artistfacts for Ed Sheehan. (n.d.). Retrieved March 10, 2017, from

Boyd, B. (2014, July 4). How the Heck did Ed Sheeran Become the Most Popular Singer in the World. Retrieved March 10, 2017, from

Horn, L. (2015, February 26). I Don't Get Ed Sheeran. Retrieved March 10, 2017, from the

Ryan, P. (2017, March 1). Why is Ed Sheehan so Popular. Retrieved March 10, 2017, from

Schnurr, S. (2017, January 27). Ed Sheehan Explains How Not Being the "Popular kid" Made Him and Taylor Swift Want to Win. Retrieved March 10, 2017, from

Vincent, A. (2017, March 3). Skater Hoodies and Steely Ambition: the 6 Secrets of Ed Sheeran's Success. Retrieved March 10, 2017, from


About the Author

Ruth Gordon Ruth Gordon, MA/MSW/LCSW

I bring with me +30 years of experience as a clinician. My Masters degrees are from: Assumption College, Worcester, MA, Master of Arts in Psychology & Counseling/ and Boston University School of Social Work, Boston, MA, an MSW in Clinical Social Work. This is the 11th year I have written a monthly newsletter that is sent to approximately 500 individuals. The archive can be found on my website,

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