With his new single “Celestial,” Ed Sheeran parts ways with his conventional love songs and ventures into new territory. On Sept. 29, Sheeran released this inspiring anthem about “finding magic in the smallest things,” expressing an aspect of his personality he has not previously highlighted to his audience: his love of Pokémon.
“[Pokémon] gave me a proper escape as a kid into a fantasy world that seemed to go on and on, and in adult life it’s nostalgia that makes me feel like a kid again,” said Sheeran in a recent statement on his Instagram. “Celestial” will be featured in Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet, two Nintendo Switch games planned to be released on Nov. 18, 2022.
When compared with Sheeran’s past body of music, “Celestial” is fairly jarring. Sheeran has been the target of quite a few jokes in the past on social media — mostly regarding the fact that besides his musical success, the artist is a seemingly boring, regular guy — but it was safe to say that none of this lukewarm attention has been centered around his affection for youth gaming. Now, that focus has become a highlight of Sheeran’s brand; his social media presence is almost entirely populated by Pokémon promotions, including an Instagram prank in which he reveals a tattoo of Squirtle on his forearm, which (thankfully) turned out to be temporary.
It seems as though Sheeran has lost some of his knack for lyricism with this new single. Whether due to his catering to a new audience of young gamers, or his choice to maintain a more poppy, commercial tone, the overall lack of lyrical originality is notable. Take this line from “Celestial”’s chorus: “You make me feel / Like I’m drunk on stars, and we’re dancing out into space.” The cliché metaphors and abstract descriptions of love may appeal to a more general Pokémon-playing audience, but they are a marked departure from Sheeran’s body of lyrically-specific love songs of the past. When you consider Sheeran’s “The A Team,” following a sex worker addicted to cocaine, or “Perfect,” a love song written for his old girlfriend and schoolmate, “Celestial,” with its vague descriptions of clouds, skies, and drinking the stars, pales in comparison.
This isn’t to say that “Celestial” doesn’t have its charms. The song is catchy, easy to sing, and bolstered by a motivational synthesizer-driven beat. It’s the type of single that would liven up any commercial space, or accompany drivers during their morning commute. It even has a partially animated music video featuring wholesome Pokémon interactions. “Celestial” doesn’t quite present itself as artistically ambitious or engaging, but it does fulfill its role, and for that, it deserves credit.
With “Celestial,” Sheeran makes a bold, albeit potentially unsuccessful, venture outside his wheelhouse. His new single may not be the new high point of his career, but it still serves as a heartwarming collaboration between Sheeran and one of his long-standing favorite franchises. If one approaches “Celestial” without the high expectations derived from Sheeran’s previous profile of work, they might find more appreciation for the song in the absence of unfulfilled expectations. In this case, they might even manage to resonate with Sheeran’s personal promotion of the single: “I love [‘Celestial’], you’re gonna love it. And we all gotta catch ‘em all.”