= (equals,) Ed Sheeran's fourth studio album, has finally arrived.
The English singer-songwriter released the 14-track album at the stroke of midnight on Friday, after over two months of teasing.
In classic Sheeran form, the studio effort delivers a mix of pop hits and ballads, providing an easy straight-though listen for fans. And, that's exactly what Ed wants people to do.
"Please just listen to it once in order, that’s all I ask," Ed tells Apple Music. "I don’t care what you do after your first listen. Put songs on a playlist, put the album on shuffle — whatever you want. But you should listen the way it’s intended to be listened to at least once."
As for the overall meaning of =, the singer revealed, "The theme of the record is me turning 30, becoming a dad, losing a friend, trying to balance work and marriage."
The lyrics from "First Times" prove just that, as Sheeran sings of different moments from his relationship with wife Cherry Seaborn, with whom he shares daughter Lyra Antarctica.
"The greatest thing that I have achieved/ Is four little words down on one knee/ You said, 'Darling are you joking?'/ And I just said, 'Please,'" he sings.
Again on "2Step," Ed expresses his love for Seaborn, singing in the chorus, "2 steppin with the woman I love/ All we need is us."
= is the follow up to 2017's ÷ (divide) and includes his previously released tracks "Shivers," "Bad Habits," and "Visiting Hours."
The album is available to purchase and stream now.