Comparison of Elton John and Ed Sheeran

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The Influence of Elton John and Ed Sheeran on Music

The 1970s saw some of the best rock and roll music ever made. Musicians had a wider variety of equipment to help them compose their music as well as experiment among different genres. Elton John arrived in the United States from England in the 1970s. His music in the 1970s mainly comprised of acoustic piano, vocal harmonies, and rhythm guitar. One of his famous songs from the time is Candle in the Wind which was released in 1974 in honor of Marilyn Monroe. In 2018, one of the most prominent musicians who has continued to produce hit after hit is Ed Sheeran. At the beginning of 2018, Ed Sheeran did an acoustic guitar-led version cover for Candle in the Wind. For Ed Sheeran, Elton was an inspiration in his music career, and Elton's company managed Sheeran's career up until the beginning of 2018. The music in the 1970s dramatically differs from the music in 2018, but legendary musicians like Elton John have managed to remain relevant and inspire some of the greatest acts in the decade such as Ed Sheeran. An analytical comparison between the two artists demonstrates the changes that have occurred in the music industry since the 1970s to date.

Elton John's Musical Career and Influence

Elton John dominated the rock and roll landscape for most of the decade, and most of his famous songs were recorded in the 1970s and the 1980s. He was popular in the United States and England. The 71-year-old legend was born as Reginald Kenneth Dwight (Rosenthal 6). He has achieved commercial success for the past sixty years. He has produced over thirty albums, and he has also made significant contributions in film and stage shows. Sir Elton John is also a cultural icon who has achieved success in other ventures, and some of the significant issues in his life are sexuality and gender, and he is one of the most famous gay men in the world. Just like any other, music legend, his success journey has not been comfortable with the constant highs and lows. Unlike his protégé, Ed Sheeran became famous because of the current advancement of technology. His music is among the most illegally downloaded in the world. He is among the most streamed artist in recent years.

The Partnership and Evolution of Elton John

The music produced by Elton John is usually created through a process of collaboration particularly between him and Bernie Taupin. The partnership is an essential factor in the success of Elton John's career, his longevity, and a key influence in the style of his music. It is plausible to conclude that Elton John is a combination of Reginald Kenneth Dwight and Bernie Taupin since he is a brand as opposed to an individual. The Elton character is associated with flair and flamboyance as well as celebrity culture (Hayward 245). The performer takes three roles which include the individual, a social being related to performance, and a song personality who is the character. In such regards, Elton John has continued to change over the years as observed in his music. Ed Sheeran is a one-person show, and he uses recent technology to improve his act such as video to enhance the visual element of his performances. He has a strong technical team that adapts to every performance.

Ed Sheeran's Rising Success and Unique Style

Ed Sheeran had a great year in 2017. Nonetheless, since he began his music career, he has continued to produce hits which appeal to the mainstream mass. The British singer and songwriter decided to move on from his acoustic guitar when he created 'shape of you' in 2017. The song was one of the few songs to top the list for weeks in history. Ed Sheeran was born Edward Christopher 'Ed' Sheeran in 1991 in the UK, and since he was young, he could play the guitar just like his protégé Elton John who could play the piano at a very young age. He first produced his first album titled A Self-Titled in 2006. Sheeran became famous when his video went viral, and the many live shows performed between 2009 and 2010 (Trisnantasari 25). Additionally, just like Elton John, he proceeded to the United States to further his music career. In the United States, he was signed to Atlantic Records and his first album while signed to the label was '+' which managed to top the charts in the United States and the United Kingdom. The migration of the two artists from the United Kingdom to the United States seems to have a significant effect on their career success.

Different Styles of Performance and Dressing

Elton John and Ed Sheeran have distinctive dressing styles as performers. In the 1970s, Elton John had put upon himself a rigorous schedule. He began dressing up in the extravagant costumes during the beginning of the decade, and they were the foundation of who he was as a performer. The costumes were an essential aspect of who he was as a performer, and they were his expression of the desire to become a musician. His attire broke the norms for performativity at the time, and they offered him originality (Bernardin 157). Nonetheless, the costumes did not overtake who he was as a musician, and they did not define who he was as an artist because many glam rock artists of his time used similar costumes in their performances. Sheeran does not have the look of a typical superstar. He has ginger hair arranged in a controlled and yet messy style which gives him a boyish look, and his performance attire mainly consists of hoodies, t-shirts, jeans, and sneakers which is more like a college freshman look unlike his protégé Elton John who preferred glam costumes. Nonetheless, his relaxed demeanor and choice of dress may exhibit feigned nonchalance, but Sheeran holds an air of honesty while on the stage and off the stage.

Musical Style and Songwriting Process

As a performer, Ed Sheeran seems comfortable and is composed and accessible to the crowds which have had a significant impact on his fame. As a songwriter, Sheeran's style is strongly affiliated to the writing styles of artists such as Damien Rice which incorporates acoustic and hip-hop mash-ups (Nolan 45). In his album " +" he has incorporated beatboxing and has rapped in some of the songs such as "You Need Me, I Don't Need You." Most of his songs are characterized by storytelling such as in his " +" album in the song "Small Bump" he remembers how a friend had a miscarriage and in "A-Team" he talks of a drug-addicted sex worker he had met while he had been playing at a homeless shelter (Simpson 26). The song has been received positively and negatively by many, and it was nominated as the song of the year during the 2013 Grammys (Nolan 128). At the Grammy Awards Elton John joined him on stage. During that time, Ed Sheeran was introduced to the American audience. Just like many songwriters, detractors often have questioned the authenticity of Ed Sheeran's songs. However, Ed Sheeran has a way of engaging with his material to the extent where the sincerity of his songs is so captivating that it is hard to believe that his lyrics are not genuine. In spite of his success in the music industry, the artist has managed to stay aloof and remain loyal to his fandom. Apart from being a performer, Elton John is also a songwriter and a composer. He started piano lessons at the age of seven. He was accorded with a scholarship at the age of eleven to the Royal college of music. The primary focus of the college was classical music, and he attained invaluable technique (Wiseman-Trowse 234). As such most of his song contains an artistic influence, but he chose to concentrate on rock and roll music (Buckley31).

The Instruments They Use in Their Performances

Elton John mainly incorporates the piano in his performances while Ed Sheeran uses the guitar. On stage, Elton John is most often a pianist. The piano parts by Elton John are tough to play because they counter with the vocal melodies which allow for his grand flourishes. As such, his melodies rarely double in the piano part. He has also mastered his skill because he can play within a steady groove as seen in his 1970 song, 'Take Me To The Pilot.' Since he was sixteen years old, Sheeran has exclusively played the guitar and especially the LX1E Little Martin guitar which is affordable and much easier to carry around. He opted for the small instrument because he did not have a permanent place to live. As a result, Martin Guitar produced the LX1E Ed Sheeran Signature Edition which features the artiste's artistic details. Exclusively, Ed Sheeran uses the acoustic guitar and a loop pedal. His current guitar is the Martin Ed Sheeran Divide while previously he used the Martin LX1E and his central electric is the Fender Stratocaster

The Emotional Influence of Their Songs and Contributions to Popular Culture

A standard feature between the two artists is that their songs often feature emotions. Since the beginning of his career, Elton John has collaborated with various lyricists to compose songs. Bernie Taupin has played a significant role in the occupation of Elton John as a lyricist. Elton John process included creating a harmony after receiving the words from his lyricist on his piano. His choice of harmony is unique, and it does not conform to popular music standards. Additionally, the melody in his songs makes his music favorite among his fans. Ed Sheeran just like his predecessor Elton John produces multi-generational songs that appeal to a broad demographic audience. Part of his success has originated from the fact that he does not compromise on his image. Most of his songs are nostalgic, but some like A Team and Shape of You are different (Pradikta 27). Further, he adapts to any music style and makes it his own. His singing style makes him exceptional as opposed to his vocal range. He has a natural phrasing style which allows him to connect with his fans. Additionally, his acoustic guitar has played a crucial role in producing good music.

Charity Work and Impact on Society

The celebrities have made significant contributions to popular culture. Elton John had been a substantial campaigner for charities and good causes and especially in HIV/AIDS-related charities. Since the 1990s his profits from the sale of his songs have gone towards charitable causes. He is also a campaigner for the LGBT community and has participated in various campaigns, and his participation affects the way the masses receive his music. Elton John married his partner David Furnish on the day the law was passed for gay couple marriages (Buckley 374). For Ed Sheeran when the Custom-made Martin guitars are sold, 100 percent of Ed Sheeran's share goes to East Anglia's Children's Hospices. He also supports HIV/AIDS causes, poverty, and creative arts. He was awarded the MBE by the prince of wales for his charity work and music career.


A variety of changes have occurred in the music industry since the 1970s but acts like Elton John who was famous then have managed to remain popular to date. Elton John had served as an inspiration to many after him such as the recent star Ed Sheeran who came to the limelight in 2006. Both artists originated from England but moved to the United States where they continue to enjoy success and fame. Elton John success was enhanced by his costumes and his contributions to popular culture. Ed Sheeran success, on the other hand, can be attributed to the recent advancement in the digital era that enabled him to reach a wider audience. He also has a distinctive style which allows him to connect with the crowds. Elton John is versed with various instruments, but he mainly uses his piano skills in his music while Ed Sheeran uses his acoustic guitar. The two musicians have primarily contributed to popular culture especially in charity work and taking up various causes. They have experienced fame in different eras, and it is crucial to note that they have taken advantage of the technology and the resources of their time to build a budding music career.

Works Cited

Bernardin, Claude, and Tom Stanton. Rocket man: Elton John from AZ. London: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1996.

Buckley, David. Elton John: The Biography. London: Andre Deutsch, 2010.

Hayward, Keith. Tin Pan Alley: The Rise of Elton John. London: Soundcheck Books, 2013.

Nolan, David. Ed Sheeran A+: The Unauthorised Biography. London: John Blake Publishing, 2014. Print.

Pradikta, Dicky Wisnu. Cognitive Linguistic Analysis of Love Metaphors in Ed Sheeran’s Songs. Diss. Sanata Dharma University, 2017.

Rosenthal, Elizabeth J. His Song: The Musical Journey of Elton John. London: Bpi Communications, 2001.

Simpson, Jeff. " Ed Sheeran: 15 Million Albums Sold & He’s Just Getting Started.” Martin, Vol 1, 2014, pp.22-25. Accessed 24 may 2018.

TPi. "PRODUCTION PROFILE: Ed Sheeran". Digico.Biz, 2018, Accessed 24 May 2018.

Trisnantasari, Ika. "A Semantic Analysis on Ed Sheeran Songs." Aesthetics 6.2 (2018).

Wiseman-Trowse, Nathan. Performing class in British popular music. Springer, 2008.

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October 05, 2023


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