I have, somehow, managed to go my entire life without forming a solid opinion on Ed Sheeran. I have listened to people passionately defend him, and I have listened to people rant about how he’s destroying the music industry as we know it. And to both these arguments, I have nothing to offer but a hard “meh”. Having a strong feeling about Ed Sheeran is like having a strong feeling about Radox body wash.
Today, however, I have broken my “meh” stance on Ed Sheeran, because I’ve decided that Ed Sheeran has written the greatest comedy song of his generation of songwriters. Because today, Ed Sheeran released his latest song “Galway Girl”.
For those of you with Irish friends and/or an Irish pub near your house, you’ll know the original Galway Girl. Steve Earle recorded it with Irish artist Sharon Shannon in 2008, and it quickly became famous in Ireland after it was featured in a Bulmer’s Cider advert. Ed, clearly inspired by this timeless cultural classic from, errr, 2008, decided to release his own version.
It can’t be overstated enough that Ed Sheeran’s description of meeting an Irish woman is a direct window into the soul of every man who has ever tried to chat up an Irish – or indeed, any non-English person with a recognisable heritage – woman at a bar. Despite the fact that, intellectually, they know that Ireland is a modern country with supermarkets and hospitals, there’s some deeply-rooted scrap of social conditioning that tells them otherwise. That meeting you has transformed their quiet Tuesday night at the pub into that massive party scene that all the passengers in steerage have in Titanic. That he is Rose, and you are one of those jig-dancing, whisky-drinking, devil-may-care peasants ready to give him some folksy advice and a quick handy under your prayer shawl.
Ed Sheeran’s “Galway Girl” doesn’t just “play the fiddle in an Irish band”: she also plays darts, and pool, and drinks Jameson, Jack Daniels, Guinness and Johnny Walker over the course of a single evening. She dances to Van Morrison, and then dances a ceilidh moments later, leaving me confused as to whether this evening took place in 1991 or 1952. Sheeran goes so heavy on the clunky Irish references that The Daily Edge has managed to list them all here.
Despite the fact that I haven't been single for a few years, I never seem to stop meeting mini-Sheerans. Men who have a very specific Manic Paddy Dream Girl fantasy, and who are convinced that I am about to take their hand and lead them to a secret fiddle party happening around the corner. It’s hard to get too pissed off about this, because frankly, it’s bloody hilarious. What’s even funnier is Ed Sheeran’s interview with The Guardian, where he confessed that he had to fight with his label to get Galway Girl on the album.
“They were really, really against Galway Girl, because apparently folk music isn’t cool. But there’s 400m people in the world that say they’re Irish, even if they’re not Irish. You meet them in America all the time: ‘I’m a quarter Irish and I’m from Donegal.’ And those type of people are going to fucking love it.”
Now, I love a “I fought with my label” story as much as anyone else, but it seems pretty clear to me that the label didn’t want Galway Girl because it’s an absolute turd of a song, and not because they were somehow unwilling to engage with folk music.
The thing is though, Ed isn’t wrong: “those types of people” – the people who like to share in a bit of borrowed heritage from time to time, and don’t want to question it too much – are going to love it. And let them! Meanwhile, I’ll be dancing a ceilidh to Van Morrison.