Some of the biggest hits need an A Team – Sheeran helped make these pop classics happen
Ed Sheeran’s magnetic pull on the charts gets stronger with every release. His January 6 double single, ‘Castle on the Hill’ and ‘Shape of You’, took just four days to break Spotify’s all-time streaming record. Now, a massive tour awaits.
This all follows his second album ‘x’, which racked up over 2 million sales in the U.S. and became one of the decade’s biggest sellers back home. Anyone with the faintest of Top 40 aspirations wants to work with Sheeran – the most recent example being James Blunt – and in the past five years he’s lent his songwriting chops to some of the biggest hits. From multi-million sellers to some lesser-known collaborations, we’ve rounded up Sheeran’s best non-solo moments that he’s given to others.
Justin Bieber – ‘Love Yourself’ (2015)
J-Biebz’ most sentimental moment found its ‘Purpose’ with the help of Sheeran, alongside producer Benny Blanco. Bieber was full of praise for his co-writer: “I think he’s one of the most talented writers in the game right now, so just to have his input and his stories and our stories and match them up together and say ’What have you been through?,’ and telling the same story,” he told Capital FM. This year, Sheeran revealed the song was initially written for his third album ‘÷’.
Major Lazer – ‘Cold Water’ (2016)
The dream team of Sheeran and Benny Blanco teamed up again for ‘Cold Water’, a record-breaking smash penned for Diplo’s Major Lazer, featuring Justin Bieber and Danish star MØ on vocals. Diplo wanted the songwriting partnership to happen for years – “the moment I heard this one, I knew that it was the one,” he said.
The Weeknd – ‘Dark Times’ (2015)
A smooth cut from Abel Tesfaye’s ‘Beauty Behind the Madness’ breakthrough, it came about when the pair were “really drunk” at a party, having just met. The Weeknd was full of praise once ‘Dark Times’ came out. “I’ve written with a lot of people in my life, but he is the fastest and most talented songwriter I’ve ever worked with, ever,” he declared to a crowd in Toronto.
Jessie Ware – ‘Say You Love Me’ (2014)
Jessie Ware’s 2014 ‘Tough Love’ album landed a year before she got hitched, and it’s full to the brim with swept-up love songs. Sheeran had a hand, somehow layering his vocal enough times to make it sound like a twenty-piece choir were singing in the background. “It was such a pleasure to work with him because he is ridiculously talented,” Ware told The Daily Star at the time. “I feel lucky that I got a glimpse of him in the flesh writing a song. I have nothing but love and admiration. He’s prolific and will be around forever.”
One Direction – ‘Little Things’ (2012)
Sheeran wrote ‘Little Things’ at the age of 17, alongside singer-songwriter Fiona Bevan. After being convinced to work with the 1D boys for second album ‘Take Me Home’, he played a demo of the track in the studio, and they instantly fell in love with the soppy, intimate number. “It’s got one of my favourite lines that I’ve ever written in a song,” Sheeran claimed in 2012.
Taylor Swift – ‘Everything Has Changed’ (2012)
A collaboration from Swifty’s ‘Red’ album, ‘Everything Has Changed’’s accompanying video shows toddler versions of Swift and Sheeran hanging out in school and becoming BFFs. Little-known fact: Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody provides backing vocals.
Rudimental – ‘Lay It All On Me’ (2015)
Rudimental contributed to ‘Bloodstream’, a standout on Sheeran’s second album ‘x’. He returned the favour for their ‘We The Generation’ LP, apparently “saving” ‘Lay It All On Me’ when it was about to be scrapped. Amir Amor, who’s known Sheeran since their school days, said they “couldn’t find the right vocalist… then one day we were in the studio with Ed, played it to him and he loved it and said he wanted to be on it. He absolutely smashed the vocal and wrote a brilliant middle eight,” he told the Evening Standard.
Olly Murs – ‘Love Shine Down’ (2010)
Former X Factor runner-up / permanent cheeky chappy Olly Murs had a reggae moment when teaming up with Sheeran for ‘Love Shine Down’, a track from his 2010 debut. Bastille’s Dan Smith also has a writing credit, with Jessie J guesting on backing vocals – it’s one big, unorthodox, happy pop family.
Wiley – ‘If I Could’ (2011)
Sheeran’s grime stint is a rarely-mentioned feather in his cap. 2011 EP ‘No. 5 Collaborations Project’ featured P Money, JME and Wiley. The latter teamed up with Sheeran for ‘If I Could’, although they had a falling out soon after. “I did a tune for him, he didn’t want to do one for me,” the Godfather of Grime told The Guardian, despite insisting they didn’t hate each other. “When you get to a certain level you’re not allowed to work with people who are not on your level. That’s the problem.”
Hilary Duff – ‘Tattoo’ (2015)
Returning in 2015 with her first album in eight years, Hilary Duff knew who she wanted to work with. She’s also not the first to cite Sheeran’s insane work ethic. “He had been doing a promo day in L.A. and he’s like, ‘I know you have a 2-year-old, but could you please come and record at midnight?’” she told MTV News. “I was like, ‘I’ve already been in bed for three hours by midnight on most nights,’ but of course for him I did, and I’m such a huge fan – he’s so talented.”