x (pronounced "multiply") is the second studio album by English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, released on 20 June 2014 in Australia and New Zealand, and worldwide on 23 June through Asylum Records and Atlantic Records. Its lead single, "Sing", was released as a digital download on 7 April 2014, becoming his first single in the UK to reach number 1. As soon as "+" was finished, Sheeran started work on his second studio album. Around the time his first album was released in 2011, the first songs for the second album were written, "One" being the album opener, and another which eventually became a bonus track. Sheeran wrote with Johnny McDaid from Snow Patrol in hotel rooms while supporting them on the North American leg of the band's Fallen Empires Tour in 2012. He also wrote with Irish singer/songwriter and frequent tourmate Foy Vance, penning multiple potential songs for the album. Sheeran decided against releasing his second album in 2012, deciding instead to follow in the footsteps of fellow British acts like Adele and One Direction who had "broken America". In Autumn 2013, Sheeran performed three sold out nights at Madison Square Garden, finishing two and a half years on tour to focus on recording his new album.
In a behind the scenes tour video, it was revealed that he was in the studio with producers Rick Rubin and Pharrell Williams, who were later confirmed in interviews to be contributing towards the album. The album was due for release on 17 February 2014, but Sheeran got "the opportunity to work with Rick Rubin for two months, which wasn't going to say no to", which led to a delay. Having written "hundreds" of songs, Sheeran entered the studio with Rubin and they cut that down to the 15 new songs that feature on the album, excluding "I See Fire", which was recorded separately and saw release on the soundtrack for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Sheeran stated that he "started off making another acoustic record, and it turned into a neo-soul-funk record", due to the influence of working with producers like Rubin and Benny Blanco that "pulled out of comfort zone". Getting into the studio with Rubin to "rerecord all the songs" after two years of writing them made the songs sound "raw and interesting", at a time when Sheeran was getting tired of them, giving him a chance to "actually set up the album instead of just putting it out". However, doing an entire album with Rubin "just wouldn't work on pop radio", so after working with Rubin he wrote the songs "I'm a Mess" and "Thinking Out Loud", both about his girlfriend at the time, with a different producer. Jake Gosling, who co-wrote and produced the majority of Sheeran's debut album, has no writing credits on this album, whilst new collaborators include Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody and British dance act, Rudimental.
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