Ed Sheeran music videos: Small details you missed

It wasn't that long ago that Ed Sheeran was busking at London train stations and performing at street parties in front of a handful of friends. Now, three studio albums in to what promises to be a long and fruitful career, the ginger Brit is a genuine superstar. He's been hailed as one of the best songwriters of his generation, but Sheeran didn't get to where he is today on talent alone.

Hard work has been the key to success for the Suffolk-born singer-songwriter. He gigged relentlessly in his early days and has literally written hundreds of songs over the years, providing an example he advises aspiring musicians follow if they want to make it big. But what Sheeran realized early on is that the music industry nowadays isn't about music alone.

"Ed Sheeran is one of the biggest stars in the world and his new album [Divide] is his best yet," YouTube's global head of music Lyor Cohen said in 2017 (via Variety). "For years, he's paired his songs with consistently creative music videos, so it's great to see fans rushing to YouTube to watch them and show support for his new album."

Sheeran usually stars in his own videos, but he's also released numerous lyric videos for both singles and album tracks, bringing his total YouTube views to over 14 billion. While some of them are pretty straight forward, others are packed with small details that often go over the heads of even his biggest fans.

'Thinking Out Loud'

Sheeran performed a stunning five-minute ballroom routine with dancer Brittany Cherry in the sumptuous video for his 2014 monster hit "Thinking Out Loud," one of his most iconic videos to date. The singer-songwriter looks like a natural in the final cut, but learning the routine was actually an incredibly grueling experience for him. He originally wanted to hire a professional, but later decided he could do it himself with a little practice, something he wound up regretting on several occasions.

"My thought process for it was that I don't need to do this, I'm a musician," he told Capital FM. "When it started getting really tough, that part of me started kicking in. Like, 'Why am I doing this? I should be focusing on the concert I'm playing tonight rather than busting my balls to make sure this video works.' I find giving up halfway through is one of the worst qualities that you can have, so I just made sure I finished it. And it worked out!"

What most people don't realize is that the whole thing was shot on 16mm film to give it that luxurious quality, an idea put forward by Sheeran's go-to director Emil Nava. "I always use Emil as a director, just because he always makes my vision a little bit cooler than I imagined it," Sheeran said. "His whole idea for it was to shoot it on 16mm film, which hasn't been done in years for music videos. It looks incredible."

'Shape of You'

In 2017, Sheeran set a new record when he became the first artist in history to have two singles ("Shape of You" and "Castle on the Hill") enter the U.K. charts at number one and two. It was eventually knocked off the top spot by Harry Styles after 13 weeks, but the "Shape of You" video carried on picking up hits on YouTube, where it snagged over three and a half billion views. In it, the redhead plays a boxer who falls for a woman from his gym, though it wasn't a role that Sheeran slipped into naturally.

"The 'Shape of You' video was the most physically draining video that I've ever done because the director really wanted me to look in shape," he told MTV. "He was getting me to sprint for five hours a day and do loads of pull-ups, and I was like, 'Mate, I can only do one pull-up!" The video ends with Sheeran getting tossed around by a huge sumo wrestler — and that's actually him inside the fat suit.

"I put on this big helmet, and I was like, 'Are you sure we couldn't just get a stunt double to do this?' Because it was really uncomfortable. And they were like, 'No no, we can definitely see you'… You can't see it's me." Sheeran revealed that he gave himself whiplash running into the 42 stone sumo over and over again, but he didn't mind because it was "all for the art."

'Perfect'

If "Perfect" instantly became your new favorite song the first time that you heard it, you weren't alone. In 2018, the super-catchy love ballad was voted the best song of all time in a U.K. radio poll, and Sheeran himself has admitted that it's the best track he's ever written. The singer-songwriter penned the modern classic in as little as 45 minutes, inspired by his "beautiful and smart" girlfriend, Cherry Seaborn.

Sheeran and Seaborn went to high school together but — as the "Perfect" lyrics reveal — their romance didn't develop until later. Seaborn's role was played by actress Zoey Deutch in the music video, in which she, Sheeran, and a group of friends go on a romantic ski trip. Snow angels, sunsets and dances in the dark ensue, but did you notice the fact that Sheeran barely takes to the slopes? That's because he can't actually ski, which he revealed while discussing breaking his arms with Ellen DeGeneres.

"I was cycling to the pub," he said. "I had two days off, I'd just shot the 'Perfect' video, which I was skiing in. And I can't ski, so if there's anytime you're going to break your arms, I assumed it was going to be then… I was going down a hill and I breaked, fell off, hit both arms. But then was like, 'It's my only day off, I'm going to the pub.'" He got drunk with Seaborn and friends and then drove himself to hospital the following morning.

'Castle on the Hill'

Ed Sheeran's "Castle on the Hill" was released as a double single alongside "Shape of You" in advance of Divide, the Brit's third studio album and the best selling record of 2017 (it had shifted almost 10 million units by December 31, according to World Music Awards). The name of the song refers to Framlingham Castle, which stands on an imposing hill overlooking Sheeran's hometown in Suffolk. The superstar was later invited to play a homecoming gig at the beautiful English Heritage site but decided to turn it down for the time being because he felt that it was "still too close to home" for him.

In the song, Sheeran reminisces about getting drunk with friends and watching the sun set over Framlingham Castle, a happy time in his life that he wanted to recreate as best he could for the video. He actually planned on playing himself in the nostalgic video, but time constraints made that impossibleA redheaded doppelgänger was cast in his place, but it turns out he wasn't just any old ginger teen. 

"I was shooting the 'Shape of You' video at the time, so they were like, 'We're going to cast kids from your high school [and] funnily enough, one of them looks really like you,'" Sheeran revealed during his sitdown with MTV. "I was like, 'Oh, cool, well cast him then.' That's why it looks so authentic, because it's Suffolk kids in Suffolk, doing what Suffolk kids do."

'Lego House'

Sheeran is a big Lego fan, but his track "Lego House" wasn't originally meant for him. He revealed during his VH1 Storytellers live session that he penned the song with British boy band JLS in mind, but he was laughed out of the building when he took it to their producers, who couldn't envision the super-cool R&B group singing about Lego. A few years later, JLS were history and "Lego House" had become the third single from Sheeran's debut album, Plus.

For the video, Sheeran recruited fellow redhead Rupert Grint. The former Harry Potter star is initially presented as being Sheeran himself but is later revealed to be stalking the singer-songwriter, breaking into his tour bus and chewing his used gum. Grint (who claims that 50 percent of the people he meets in real life actually mistake him for Sheeran now) breaks apart two Lego sets in the video, which harks back to a set that Sheeran received from his former girlfriend.

"I had a girlfriend at the time and she gave me a Lego set, and I built it," he said. "I put it on the mantelpiece, and the day we broke up it fell off … I was kind of looking at the Lego smashing, and in my head I going through all these feelings and metaphors, and I'm like, 'Isn't it funny that you spend so long putting Lego together, just like a relationship, and within an instant it can break apart."

'Photograph'

Sheeran was on tour with British indie band Snow Patrol when he wrote "Photograph", which just "fell out within about ten minutes," he told Capital FM. "I wrote it in Kansas City and finished it in Denver, and it was just about being away on that tour. I wrote it with Johnny [McDaid] from Snow Patrol and he just had a loop on his laptop that he just put down that was just a three-note piano thing and I just started singing over that, 'Loving can hurt, loving can hurt…'"

About "60 or 70" different versions of the song were recorded (one with legendary producer Rick Rubin) using a variety of different instruments, but in the end the one that Sheeran went with was pretty much a tweaked version of the original he and McDaid had recorded on their American tour. He didn't put as much effort into the song's video (cobbled together from Sheeran family home videos) as you might imagine, however.

"I did absolutely nothing," he told Billboard. "I just got sent it, said 'Yep', and then it came out." Sheeran revealed that his dad went through all the footage of him with the video's director, but he didn't actually find it as emotional to watch as the rest of us did. "My manager cried, and I kind of looked over to him and was like, 'Really?' I guess because it's me, I'm not really going to [cry]. But I'm glad other people cried!"

'Happier'

The Ed Sheeran lookalike puppet first popped up in the wild video for his 2014 collab with Pharrell Williams, "Sing." In it, the marionette parties with pretty girls inside a stretch limo and enjoys a crazy night out on the town, but there's not a lot of hidden meaning to be deciphered here. That wasn't the case with the "Happier" video, in which the same puppet gets his heart broken by his girlfriend, who happens to be made of balloons. It all sounds a little ridiculous, but watching the puppet mourn the loss of his inflatable lady really does choke you up. 

What appears to be a lighthearted tribute to The Muppets at first glance is actually a lot deeper and darker when you take a closer look. The jilted puppet stalks his ex-partner and her new man throughout the video, coming to the conclusion that she's happier with this guy than she ever was with him. That doesn't stop him from seeing balloons everywhere he goes, however, implying that he's unable to get over her even though he knows she's better off. The fixtures and fittings in the bar that Mupp-Ed drowns his sorrows in are all made of balloons — from the ashtrays to the lampshades.

GQ called "Happier" (which is based on a real ex-girlfriend) a "standout ballad with [Sheeran's] cleverest and most mature lyrics yet," and the video (set in New York City, as the yellow cabs and street signs betray) compliments it perfectly.

'Galway Girl'

There are plenty of small details in the "Galway Girl" video, though you probably never noticed them all unless you happen to be Irish. Sheeran's grandparents hail from the Emerald Isle (the song "Nancy Mulligan" is about them falling in love despite religious divides), and he has a deep love for Irish folk music. "It's such exciting, youthful music," he told The Irish Times (via Bustle). "Hopefully if these songs are successful, more people will do a bit more like it."

It might not be his biggest hit, but "Galway Girl" was certainly a success. The video, which has over 350 million views on YouTube, stars Irish actress Saoirse Ronan and is jam-packed with cultural references, some more on-the-nose than others. From the drinks being consumed (Guinness and Jameson) to the patrons at the local pub (he bumps into Irish radio and TV personality Hector Ó hEochagáin in the bathroom), Sheeran crams just about every Irish thing you can think of into 3 minutes.

The video wasn't universally loved (in fact, some argued that it was essentially cultural theft) but Sheeran has always stuck by the song, even when his record label was trying to convince him to drop it from Divide. "They were really, really against 'Galway Girl', because apparently folk music isn't cool," he told The Guardian prior to its release. "But there's 400 [million] people in the world that say they're Irish … And those type of people are going to f***ing love it."

'Drunk'

Ed Sheeran is very much a cat person, and felines have become a running theme in his videos to date. Eagle-eyed fans may have spotted a photo of one on the wall of his pretty little Galway girl's bedroom, but his biggest kitty-fest to date has been the video for "Drunk," the fourth single from Plus. In it, a dejected Sheeran turns to alcohol to help him get over a breakup, hitting the club with his furry wingman.  

"A cat takes me out and gets me drunk," he told Capital FM. "There's basically a bit with a house party with the cats and these girls come back to the house party and hook up with some of the cats — it's really weird." It looks totally planned when you watch it, but there's a moment during said party that Sheeran totally improvised after being pushed out of his comfort zone, and he felt terrible about it afterwards.

"The director's a bit kinda like bonks and he's very, very cool, but he was like, 'Ed, you just gotta go mental,'" the Grammy winner said. "I'm quite a reserved, chilled guy, and he kept pushing me and pushing me and pushing me and just after a while I snapped and went nuts. I break all the lights, I get a bottle of beer and I spray it all over the girls and afterwards I'm like, 'I'm really sorry' — I totally soaked them from head to foot in beer."