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Ed Sheeran‘s new single, “Sing,” has finally arrived — and, yes, the comparisons to Justin Timberlake‘s “Like I Love You” are very apt. The track featuring Pharrell Williams is an uptempo departure for the singer-songwriter, and previews his new album, x, due out internationally June 23.
Sheeran’s fragile voice, as heard on past hits like “The A Team” and “Lego House,” has now morphed into a confident croon, unafraid of diving into a deep bag of melismas, boisterous chants and rapid-fire rhymes in order to convince his female subject of his desires. The real star of “Sing,” however, is the interplay between Sheeran’s slicing guitar and the knotty percussion, which swirls around his distinct falsetto as he asks, “Can you feel it?” on the bridge.
In Billboard‘s current cover story, which you can read here, Sheeran says that “Sing” — the first time the singer-songwriter has worked with a preexisting track — owes a lot to Timberlake. “It was pretty close to a direct inspiration,” he says. “I love Justified and FutureSex/LoveSounds, so I took inspiration from those.”
Also revealed in the Sheeran cover story: “Sing” was not originally slotted to be the first single from x, which follows his 2011 debut +. “Don’t,” a song co-produced by Benny Blanco and Rick Rubin, was set to lead the sophomore LP until early March, but the triumphant “Sing” eventually was selected as the first look.
Sheeran announced the single’s release last Friday, when he also shared the x album title and release date. “Can’t wait for you guys to hear it,” he added for good measure. Fans won’t have to wait too long to hear “Sing” live: Sheeran will perform it on Saturday Night Live this weekend (Apr. 12).
This story originally appeared on Billboard.com.
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