We’re still not yet out of the sad river yet. If “Eyes Closed” is heavy with grief and “Boat” is about finding the strength to have hope, “Curtains” is midway between the two. It’s about putting in the effort to recover, rather than just waiting and hoping that you will. It’s about knowing when you need help and asking for it. It’s about deciding to be happy.
We know this year has not been a particularly strong one for Sheeran – “Eyes Closed” and “Boat” barely scratched the surface of the weight Sheeran’s music usually pulls – but fans believe the rawness of “Curtains” is enough for many people to connect to it, thereby making it Sheeran’s first breakout hit of the year.
“Can you pull the curtains? Let me see the sunshine / I think I’m done with my hidin’ place and you found me anyway / It’s been forever, but I’m feelin’ alright / Tears dry and will leave no trace and tomorrow’s another day,” Sheeran sings in the upbeat track of what it’s like realizing that one can actually begin to move on from the pain.
“Curtains” especially feels like a continuation of “Eyes Closed” – a song about the ever-constant presence of grief – as Sheeran sings about being “somewhere closed away” and playing a game where he “can’t be seen.” Some of the lyrics on “Curtains” mirror those in “Eyes Closed.” In “Eyes Closed” Sheeran sings, “Been inside for most this year / And I thought a few drinks, they might help,” and in “Curtains” he sings, “Hide and seek, I am somewhere closed away / You won’t believe how long it’s been since I started the game.”
From the tracks we’ve heard so far, it’s clear to see that Subtract is Sheeran finding his way out of the deep dark depression that enveloped him when he lost a dear friend to a sudden heart attack in February 2022. In an interview, he said that he wrote these songs as a means of kick-starting the process of recovery.
“Curtains” is accompanied by a music video that sees Sheeran walk into a rowdy place and try to make his way out. As he’s moving through the crowd, people bump into him and grab him, but he keeps on moving, without showing visible signs of anger at being grabbed so abruptly.
I’ve found that every of Sheeran’s songs on Subtract has one beautiful life lesson to take away. This time it’s that “life can be so beautiful if you try.”