I know that Ed Sheeran’s buzz has faded a little bit. And I know that people don’t really care about “Castle On The Hill,” Ed Sheeran’s second single from last year’s album “Divide.” But what I also know is that I keep hearing “Castle on the Hill” by Ed Sheeran.
I often find myself getting mad and yelling to no one (Which is essentially what I’m doing right now) about Ed Sheeran’s inescapable presence in my life. It’s easy for me to work myself into this state.
He makes passable acoustic pop that usually confirms my deep-seated, near-instinctual distrust of popular music, a distaste that began when I first became obsessed with My Chemical Romance in eighth grade.
Every now and then I do listen to “Castle on the Hill” and I’m happy, or even satisfied with life, though my happiness is usually brought down a bit by having to listen to that song.
Despite this, “Castle on the Hill” still serves as just as good a canvas for my happiness as it does my sadness.
Once upon a time, someone who was supposed to be a possible date, but ended up not being that had recommended “Divide” to me, and as an example of just how much I was trying to force a connection between us, I listened to the whole album twice on two plane rides from and to Connecticut (A dangerous move, because I already had albums that had been relegated to travel music. “Strange Mercy” by St. Vincent is there. “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space” by Spiritualized is trapped there, too. “Night Time, My Time” by Sky Ferreira got dangerously close at one point.)
Most of the music I’ll listen to on a plane I’m only half-listening to, drowned out by the plane noises and my inescapable fear that I’m 40,000 feet in the air and I can’t get out. Somehow, Ed Sheeran has not forever trapped himself in travel music, the way I would like him to be.
In fact, I feel just as little listening to the song now as I did four months ago when I listened to it on a plane.
There are songs and albums that I can’t listen to anymore because I associate them with bad memories, or because I overplayed them, or because people who have turned out to be sexual harassers made them.
I’m sure we all have these songs. But there are also songs that I end up listening to over and over because they can so easily be repurposed for different situations and forgotten afterwards.
A majority of these songs have ended up being songs played on the radio. It’s not the mark of a great song or an awful song. It’s more likely the mark of a song that I’m only half-paying attention to.
When I’m in the car, listening to “Castle on the Hill” for the second time in 30 minutes, I’m not always mad. I usually don’t have the attention span to be mad because when I’m already listening to Sirius XM Z100 while driving, I can’t afford to think about the song and pay attention to the road any less, considering distracted is probably my resting state while doing everything.
But therein lies the answer to the question that had persisted in all my “Castle on the Hill” experiences: Why is this song such a blank canvas for my emotions and situations?
I have listened to it enough, and paid little enough attention to the song for it to be devoid of its original meaning and message (Which I’m pretty sure is just about what happens when you and your friends grow up, except that you become really rich and leave them behind).
Because when I’m convincing myself a plane isn’t going to crash, or struggling to understand a four-way-intersection on a busy road, what is the difference between “Castle On The Hill,” “God’s Plan” and “The Middle”? It’s all just background noise for my fear and confusion.