The first single from Ed Sheeran's forthcoming album Subtract has arrived. Behind its smooth and catchy exterior "Eyes Closed" is a candid meditation on grief and trying to carry on after a tragic loss. Sheeran has been open about how he's dealing with the death of his friend Jamal Edwards, who passed in February 2022 from cardiac arrest due to alcohol and cocaine abuse.
The song's straightforward lyrics tell the story of Sheeran trying to enjoy a night out at a bar following the loss of his close friend. "I know it's a bad idea/ But how can I help myself?/ Been inside for most this year/ And I thought a few drinks, they might help," he sings in the opening verse. "It's been a while, my dear/ Dealin' with the cards life dealt/ I'm still holdin' back these tears/ While my friends are somewhere else."
The song's music video is a succinct visual accompaniment to the lyrics, showing a big blue, though unthreatening, monster following Sheeran around as unsuccessfully attempts to forget his pain and dance at the bar. In an Instagram post shared earlier this month, Sheeran talked about the inspiration for "Eyes Closed" sharing, “This song is about losing someone, feeling like every time you go out and you expect to just bump into them, and every thing just reminds you of them and things you did together." He went on to mention his late friend. "Blue was Jamal’s colour, but now is all I feel. And I guess music helps heal, so I’m dancing with my eyes closed to try get through it x."
"Eyes Closed" is the first single from his upcoming album Subtract, the final album in his mathematical album era. Sheeran announced its release on March 1st with an emotional diary entry that revealed some hardships he's seen over the past year. "I had been working on Subtract for a decade, trying to sculpt the perfect acoustic album, writing and recording hundreds of songs with a clear vision of what I thought it should be," Sheeran wrote in his diary. "Then at the start of 2022, a series of events changed my life, my mental health, and ultimately the way I viewed music and art."