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The Student News Site of Foothill Technology High School

The Foothill Dragon Press

The Student News Site of Foothill Technology High School

The Foothill Dragon Press

Album Anatomy: “Autumn Variations”

Rihanna Samples
Released on Sept. 29, 2023, “Autumn Variations” is Ed Sheeran’s newest album that is perfect for the fall season. With a combination of upbeat love songs and slower more serious songs, it provides a refreshing balance of the different emotions one might experience while going through life. Sheeran tackles some of the most difficult aspects of growing up in an album that, while sharing certain similarities to his earlier songs, is very mundane and different than his previous music.

Riding off of the success of his Mathematics Tour, Ed Sheeran surprised fans with the release of his seventh studio album, “Autumn Variations” on Sept. 29, 2023. Drawing inspiration from Edward Elgar’s “Enigma Variations,” Sheeran wanted to construct an album that would showcase all of the vast milestones that both he and his friends had been experiencing in life. Ranging from tough topics, such as grief and mental health struggles, to the ever-present theme of love, Sheeran tackles the ups, downs and overall wild ride of emotions that accompany reaching new stages of life.


Kicking off the album, “Magical” starts slow with a melodious rhythm. Structured as a list, Sheeran sings about the joys of falling in love and how it truly can be magical. The song feels as  if it were written from the perspective of a young person falling in love for the first time—it appears to be a ballad from a man to the love of his life—making it very endearing. While the slowness of the song fits well with the lyrics, it was a bit too slow at moments, along with being repetitive in its structure and lyrics. Overall, that song would gain a 7.5 out of 10 stars.


With a more energetic feel, the second track on the album, “England,” picks up the slow pace and produces a fun song. As the name suggests, the song is centered around England, showing how it is much more than a “cold and grey” place. Throughout his lyrics, Sheeran shows his love for his country, describing the place he knows well, along with developing an overarching feeling of serenity. This song displays the power that a place can have in shaping who we are as we grow older. The faster pace of the song and catchy lyrics earn “England” an 8 out of 10.


The track immediately begins with a beautiful combination of drums and piano. Interestingly enough, Sheeran juxtaposes the upbeat melody of the instruments with the heavy topic of his song: mental health. Throughout the song, he sings about reaching a depressive low and being pressured by outside forces to feel “amazing.” The song is written in a way that normalizes the feeling of not being okay, which is a message that is occasionally stifled in our world today. With its upbeat tune, along with the impactful lyrics, “Amazing” earns a 9 out of 10.

“Plastic Bag” (Explicit)

Originally introduced on his Mathematics Tour, “Plastic Bag” officially premiered as the fourth song on the album. It starts with a slow instrumental but quickly builds in musical intensity. The themes of growing old, along with grief and being too numb to feel any sort of love, made the song an interesting listen. In many ways, the instruments along with the pacing of the lyrics are reminiscent of Sheeran’s “X” and the various songs on that album. The overall lyrics of the song were a bit of a letdown and caused it to only be a 7 out of 10.


Going into his falsetto, Sheeran sang noticeably higher for this song, which paired nicely with the prominent acoustic guitar. As the name suggests, the song was about feeling blue and the overall grief and heartbreak that comes with growing older. “Blue” was the shortest song on the album and all-in-all, a bit lackluster. Compared to the other tracks on the album, nothing stood out as exceptional, and it only earned a 7 out of 10.

"American Town"

Yet another song that initially premiered at the Mathematics Tour, “American Town” is a highly relatable song about the mundaneness of life, along with young love. Through the three-minute song, Sheeran covers the intricate connection between friendships, daily life and the giddy feeling of love. The song is a love letter both to a specific person and simultaneously a love letter to life as a whole. While the song sounds completely different, the feeling and lyrics of “American Town” are very similar to “Galway Girl.” As one of the best songs on the album, it is easily 9.5 out of 10 stars.

“That’s on Me” (Explicit)

Drawing inspiration from his earliest album, Sheeran structures “That’s on Me” in a similar way to “You Need Me, I Don't Need You.” With a similar meter and flow of verse, it’s a fast-paced song that explores the challenges of life, the biggest being self-doubt. Throughout the entire song, the theme of accountability is present as Sheeran sings about how there’s no one else to blame for his hardships except for himself. While it isn’t a particularly healthy view of life, it does make an interesting premise for the song. Sheeran continues by exploring how as he searches for closure, his scars remain vulnerable and open while he battles his inner demons. The vulnerability of the lyrics makes the song a 7 out of 10.


“Page” further explores the dark feelings swirling around Sheeran’s consciousness. Highlighting themes of regret, longing and numbness, Sheeran sings about how he’s stuck in one place and trying to stay optimistic but is horribly failing. While the song shows how it is extremely unhealthy to bottle up difficult emotions, it was bland overall, with nothing standing out. It was far from the best song on the album, but its lyrics were its saving grace, earning it a 6.5 out of 10.


After the intense lyrics and simple music behind the previous song, “Midnight” offers a refreshing balance to the album. As yet another love song, it shows the benefits of having another person to help provide peace amid life’s chaos. It illustrates how the low moments in life should still be felt but also should be shared with others to help relieve the pain. “Midnight” serves as an important reminder about the power of people and connection, and because of this, it deserves an 8.5 out of 10.


While it starts slow, this mellow song contrasts against some of the more heavy topics of the others on the album. “Spring” has a very down-to-earth feeling to it, as it promotes staying hopeful for the future, even in the middle of the dark times. While the lyrics are serious, they’re also inspiring, reminding everyone to be resilient in the face of hardships. With a rating of 9 out of 10, this is one of the best songs on “Autumn Variations.”


“Punchline” starts by highlighting a sense of hopelessness, depression, loneliness and heartbreak. It has a definite melancholy feel to it, making it one of the darkest songs on the album. The entire theme of the song is how the singer is the punchline of the cruel joke of life. The overall feel of the song along with its sad lyrics makes it a really good song to listen to while in a dismal mood, along with earning it an 8 out of 10.

"When Will I Be Alright"

Once again shifting into his falsetto, Sheeran supplies a song that grapples with mental health struggles. Keeping up with the vulnerability expressed in his other songs, “When Will I Be Alright” is full of questions that remain unanswered. Sheeran uses his words to intricately craft a song highlighting how it’s very common to not be okay. With the very impactful lyrics, the song was definitely one of the better ones on the album scoring a 7.5 out of 10.

“The Day I Was Born” (Explicit)

As the penultimate song on the album, “The Day I Was Born” is a song about feeling lonely on one’s birthday. It describes the overwhelming feeling of solitude and insignificance in the face of growing older each year. That being said, during some moments of the song the lyrics feel slightly childish and thrown together without a specific purpose. While that may be the case, the song is still catchy which earns it a 7 out of 10.

“Head > Heels”

Ending on a high note, Sheeran picks the last song of his album to be a love song. “Head > Heels” describes the deep bond of love shared between a long-term couple and serves as a more physical description of love. It describes not only the emotional attachment shared between lovers but also the feeling of oneness and happiness that can only be found when a person is in love. It is the perfect way to end his album, as he describes the unbreakable bond between two people even in the face of all of the challenges life throws at them, resulting in an 8 out of 10.

As the name suggests, the album is a perfect soundtrack for the autumn season providing any avid music listener with 14 new songs to add to their fall-filled playlists. With the perfect ratio of slower, acoustic songs blended together with fast-paced upbeat ones, “Autumn Variations” is a must-listen for any Ed Sheeran fan, especially those of his earlier albums.

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About the Contributor
Rihanna Samples
Rihanna Samples, Multimedia Editor
A junior who is constantly looking at the world through the lens of a camera.

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