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Ed Sheeran is sadness manifest as giant blue monster in video for ‘Eyes Closed’

It's the first single from 'Subtract'

By Tomás Mier

Ed Sheeran press shot, 2023
Ed Sheeran. (Photo: Annie Leibovitz)

Ed Sheeran is reflecting on the hardest moments of his life on Subtract‘s lead single, ‘Eyes Closed’. On Friday, the British singer released the emotional pop track along with its cinematic music video that follows the artist as he wanders from bar to diner, accompanied by a big, blue monster symbolising his grief.

“Just dancin’ with my eyes closed/’Causе everywhere I look, I still see you/Time is movin’ so slow/And I don’t know what else that I can do/So I’ll keep dancin’ with my eyes closed,” Sheeran sings for the chorus.

“This song is about losing someone, feeling like every time you go out and you expect to just bump into them, and everything just reminds you of them and the things you did together,” Sheeran said of the song in a statement. “You sorta have to take yourself out of reality sometimes to numb the pain of loss, but certain things just bring you right back into it.”

The track builds around a pinging pizzicato riff that builds into an octave-jumping chorus. Sheeran told Rolling Stone in a cover story interview that the track had been rewritten from a more straightforward pop song about a breakup to directly address his personal trauma.

As for the music video, Sheeran explained that he was inspired by the story of Harvey, which follows a main character with an imaginary giant rabbit friend.

“There’s also a book I read my daughters where sadness is encapsulated by an imaginary creature. Often sadness is something that follows you around, engulfing the rooms you’re in, and you can feel and see it, but no one else around you can,” Sheeran explained. “So I decided to create my own big blue monster for the video. He gets bigger and bigger as the video goes on, til he takes up whole rooms, and is all I can see, just like sadness.”

The trailer for the music video saw Sheeran driving a beaten car before crashing, and falling off a cliff into the ocean. The slow-motion video, with dramatic audio effects and all, zooms in on Sheeran’s face as he seemingly drowns. Sheeran also teased the song on TikTok.

In his wide-ranging cover story with Rolling Stone, Sheeran spoke about the grief he’s faced after the death of his close friend Jamal Edwards, and how his death is partially an inspiration for the album. It’s also helped him process the loss.

“No one really talks about their feelings where I come from,” he said. “People think it’s weird getting a therapist in England… I think it’s very helpful to be able to speak with someone and just vent and not feel guilty about venting. Obviously, like, I’ve lived a very privileged life. So my friends would always look at me like, ‘Oh, it’s not that bad.’ ”

“The help isn’t a button that is pressed, where you’re automatically OK,” he said about getting mental health help through therapy. “It is something that will always be there and just has to be managed.”

The album, out in early May, is his final LP of a set of records named after mathematical symbols. ‘Eyes Closed’ was co-written with Max Martin, Fred again.. and Shellback.

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