I am going to branch out from the Asian pop culture world with this post. English singer-songwriter, Ed Sheeran, turned the world upside down when he returned from his hiatus with a new album. This album is entitled “÷” and it was released March 3, 2017.
To be honest, I am not a huge Ed Sheeran fan. However, I do like some of his songs including “The A Team”, “Sing” and “Thinking Out Loud”. While the world goes crazy over this new album, I have yet to completely listen to it. One song from the album that I did listen to (and fell completely in love with it) was “Castle on the Hill”.
“Castle on the Hill” was pre-released in January along with “Shape of You”, another song that I really love from the album. “Castle on the Hill” is different from the usual contemporary pop song. Many pop songs these days sound the same to me. They mostly consist of rhythmic instrumentals with a splash (or way too much) EDM or dance music elements. These songs mainly talk about love, sex or partying. They lack individuality and therefore, they lack the ability to capture and maintain my interest.
Do not get me wrong. I am not saying that this does not happen in KPOP or JPOP either. These are genres that often draw inspiration from Western cultures. My interest in these genres is maintained because of my general obsession with them and the fact that they are able to draw inspiration from Western culture and create a new type of musical style. This is all enhanced through the use of different concepts to promote their music. Although, these days the concepts in KPOP music are becoming too repetitious but that is another issue for another blog post.
Moving back to the topic at hand, I really love “Castle on the Hill” because it deviates from these contemporary pop music norms. Yes, it has a somewhat catchy beat and there is some repetition here and there. What really sets this song apart is its lyrics and how they are used to tell a story.
In this song, Ed Sheeran reminisces his past back home with his family and friends. He recalled the good times such as driving way too fast on country lanes, hanging out with friends and experiencing his first kiss. He even sang about the more painful memories like breaking his leg and getting drunk and throwing up. He goes in chronological order with each verse and provides a detailed description of the events and even the setting of where they took place.
What I really appreciated about this song is that not only does he gives us a brief tour of his past and the people involved in it but also gives us a bit of an update of these friends during the bridge. We learn that many of them are facing hardships but he is grateful to them and his hometown for making him the person he is today.
I am a person that loves stories and this song tells a pretty good one. It is Ed’s way of paying homage to his hometown, the memories and the people he experienced them with. “Castle on the Hill” is a testimony to Ed Sheeran’s adept and compelling songwriting skills.
The first time I listened to “Castle on the Hill” I was instantly reminded of another song. This song is called “Home” by Taiwanese singer Diana Wang. This song is completely in English and it currently one of my favourite songs ever.
As you guessed by the title, in this song Diana sings about her home. Just like Ed in “Castle on the Hill”, Diana pays homage to her hometown through her song “Home”. This song also incorporates a level of storytelling. However, instead of Diana singing about her memories of her hometown, she sings about all her experiences outside of her hometown. Some of these experiences included seeing the aurora lights, getting drunk in Shibuya, Japan, having her heart broken multiple times, and even having her concerts sold out. She noted that while she appreciates all these experiences, she prefers to be home and it will always be the place she returns too.
While Diana does not tell her story like Ed, we still learn more about her experiences and how they shaped her love for her hometown. This is what made me fall in love with this song. This song also makes me recognise that there is so much more out there in the world. There are so many experiences that I have yet to gain. I mean, I currently live in Canada and I have yet to see the aurora lights! I have so many places to visit. There are so many cultures and sceneries I have yet to experience. There is so much out there to learn. I believe if I go out into the world I will not only gain a greater understanding of life and culture but also a greater respect for them. Simultaneously, while experiencing all of this, I also gain a greater respect and appreciation of my hometown and family within it.
Photos from my trip back home to Tobago.
I am currently having a similar experience. I grew up in the Caribbean for most of my life and moved to Canada to attend University. I have gained so many experiences and now I have a broader outlook on life. At the same time, I am more appreciative of my hometown and the unique people and culture within it. Yet, these are just two places. The world is a big place. There is so much more to explore. “Home” has made me recognise that and it has made me relate to the song on a personal level.
My only complaint about this song is that the lyrics are quite limited. While Ed described his experiences and hometown in a chronological order from the start of the song to the end, in Diana’s song she repeats the first verse, hook and chorus. “Home” was not as dynamic as “Castle on the Hill” and missed out on the opportunity to tell a more enriching story. I still really love the song though.
So I know that the title of this post is “Home” vs. “Castle on the Hill” but I honestly love both songs. They both provide a narrative of the lives of both artists. You are reminded that they are real people and can relate their experiences to your lives as well. There is a great value to these songs and personally, I would love to hear more songs like this in the future. These songs are both winners in my eyes.