Ed Sheeran might be past his frizzy-haired Brit-folk phase.
A year after the young guitar-picker teamed with Elton John for a rather warbly performance of "The A Team" at the 2013 Grammy Awards, Sheeran released a new song Monday, one that trades the cozy acoustic vibe of the earlier tune for a high-gloss pop-funk sound shaped in part by Pharrell Williams.
"Sing" is the lead single from an album Sheeran is expected to release this summer, the anticipated follow-up to his hit major-label debut, "+," which came out in the U.K. in 2011 before arriving in U.S. stores the next year.
That record wasn't all stripped-down folk stuff; tunes like "Grade 8" and "U.N.I." showed off his surprisingly convincing rap skills.
But with its supple falsetto and booming beat, "Sing" definitely shows off a new side of Sheeran -- not to mention an abiding admiration for "Justified"-era Justin Timberlake, whose virtues Sheeran extolled at length when we spoke in 2013. (Don't forget that Williams, as one half of the Neptunes, oversaw much of "Justified.")
According to Billboard, Sheeran's upcoming album will complement "Sing" with tunes produced by other Top 40 rainmakers, including Rick Rubin and Benny Blanco -- A-listers whom the singer may have met through his good pal Taylor Swift.
"I want success," he told me last year, and "Sing" feels like an efficient way to get it.
Listen to the song below.