There has even been little to no doubt about the song writing prowess of Ed Sheeran and “The A Team” song is one of those that proves everybody so. It was the first ever official single release of Ed Sheeran from his debut album ‘Plus’ back in 2011. This debut single put the new ginger on the music map like a beacon in a night sky. “The A Team” is beautifully written, with a lot of metaphors and double entendres. The song is an absolute pleasure to listen to and think about.
“The A Team” was nominated for ‘Song of the Year’ at the following Grammy Awards, which is Ed Sheeran’s first Grammy nomination ever. The song was also nominated for ‘Best British Single’ at 2012 BRIT Awards. Even though, Ed Sheeran did not win these nominations, he won an entire world. The single was ranked among top 10 in music charts in several countries around the world. “The A Team” also recorded one of the highest grossing sales figures in release year with over 800,000 sales. As of today (2018), the song has accumulated over 46 millions streams worldwide and confirmed sales figures soaring over 5 million around the world.
Inspiration Behind “The A Team” Song
Ed Sheeran himself explained the meaning behind “The A Team” and his inspiration to compose such a song.
‘The A Team’ came from an experience I had when I did a gig at a homeless shelter. I was 18 at the time and kind of quite naïve. So, I was a bit taken aback by some of the stories that I heard. I got home that night and I just wrote a lot of the lyrics. I wanted to write it so it sounded kind of upbeat, so you wouldn’t really know what it’s about, because it’s quite a dark subject. A drug like crack cocaine is called a ‘Class A drug’. That’s in the same category as heroin. Instead of making it clear and just saying what the problem was, I’d say, ‘She’s in the ‘Class A’ team.’ It was kind of my way of covering up (a person’s addiction), I guess, making it a bit more subtle.”
From the title of the song itself, we can see the creativity flowing from this lyricist and with that Ed Sheeran has managed to cover up a very dark theme with a sugary coat.
Watch Ed Sheeran Perform “The A Team” Live
From here onward we will be taking you through the verses of the song and interpreting them in the context of the song.
The entire first verse of “The A Team” is dedicated to describe the appearance and the situation of this addicted person. Lips and face that have gone pale are classic features of long term addicts. And then Ed Sheeran goes on to blend it in with the environment-bringing in snow and coldness. “Snowflakes” are cocaine powder which when inhaled burns through the system. Her lungs are destroyed and her mouth can feel no taste anymore. She has no means of earning money, hence she has to succumb to prostitution with strange men, spending long restless nights to earn money.
At an interview, Ed Sheeran says this song is based on a girl she met at a homeless shelter named Angel, and hence the lines such as “for angels to fly.”
The music video for “The A Team” shows a pale white girl doing cocaine and we can assume this was a pretty accurate representation of the girl he met at the shelter.
This part of “The A Team” delivers the reasoning behind her ghostly appearance and the above behavior.
People say that she is in the class A. The class A drugs are some of the most powerful drugs.
Class A drugs include: heroin (diamorphine), cocaine (including crack), methadone, ecstasy (MDMA), LSD, and magic mushrooms. Class B includes: amphetamines, barbiturates, codeine, cannabis, cathinones (including mephedrone) and synthetic cannabinoids. Source: talktofrank.com
‘A Team’ is also a reference to the best team you have. So the meanings overlap and Ed Sheeran forms a beautiful-disaster of a word with the phrase “A Team.”
She is said to be stuck in a daydream. Again, this could have two meanings. Most of the time young girls come to big cities to make it big and often end up going the wrong way and gets dragged to the darkest hell holes on earth. So she could seem to be chasing her once ‘dream’ now turned a mere daydream. On the other hand, daydream could refer to the lucid state she is in due to all the drugs in her system.
But lately, her face seems
Slowly sinking, wasting
Crumbling like pastries
One of the saddest few lines in “The A Team” are as above. This girl has fought her life this far and it has not been easy. The drugs, the pressure, crumbling dreams and everything else is starting to affect her and it shows on her body now. She is simply withering away.
The worst things in life come free to us
This is one of the most powerful lines in the song. Are drugs the worst thing? But, they aren’t cheap at all. ‘The worst things’ here refer to all other torments one has to endure in life that are thrown at them. Abuse, rape, bullying, mental and verbal torture, bad friends, lack of education, wars etc are all things that we get free of charge.
Getting the ‘upper hand’ is something like winning in life. The way Ed Sheeran sees her, she is always a few feet under the upper hand, and she cannot go beyond that due to her addiction. She has to put herself in dangerous situations (like sex with strangers) to fund her addiction. It is not like she enjoys doing any of this. It’s just too hard to get her life back on track now.
‘In a pipe she flies to the Motherland’ refers to the act of doing heroine. A bong pipe is used to inhale the drug to the system and it takes her to her own world. It becomes her Motherland as she feels very comfortable in it than on Earth. She feels like herself. Which is an illusion of course.
It’s too cold outside
For angels to fly
These two lines carry so much meaning in “The A Team.”
‘Cold outside’ has two meanings. One to do with the actual cold weather shown in the video as well, where this girl named ‘Angel’ has to work as a prostitute to pay off her addiction.
On the other hand ‘cold outside’ could also mean the society that is cruel and cold-hearted. The ‘worst things’ that she got free of charge came to her from the society. An angel is someone of pure breed and innocence. And this world is not made up for angels. In a way, Ed Sheeran is saying that it is not this girls’ fault that she is in this pale and withering state. There have been some series of events that has pushed her to this position and we can safely assume that most of it she got for ‘free.’
Watch “The A Team” Official Music Video
These lines explain more of the sad situation this girl is in.
Her clothes are torn and she cannot afford new clothes. She fought the society (tried to swim) but she failed. She gets a dry house here and there when she is being used for sex. Notice it is not ‘home’ but ‘house.’ So it is clearly not a permanent residence of love. She is usually on the street and because of that wet from the rain and melting snow.
She has loose change from begging and bank notes from prostitution–or maybe, the other way around. Her eyes are always weary, because of the drugs and sleepless nights with customers. Her throat is dries because of the drugs.
She is a ‘call girl,’ a phrase used to identify prostitutes. But she doesn’t even own a phone!
An angel will die
Covered in white
This angel is so down her addiction that Ed Sheeran thinks it will be the cause of her death. She will be covered in white powder (drugs) when she sleeps forever. She has no strength to do anything else. So she shoots another dose into her body, close her eyes and imagine of a better life. That is all she has the power to do!
“The A Team” is not just beautifully written, but is also delivers a powerful message about a real social issue among us. There are so many ‘Angels’ in the world today and there is little to no help for them. This song is an eye-opener in that sense.
This concludes our breakdown/annotation of “The A Team” by Ed Sheeran and we thoroughly enjoyed this doing so. Hope you enjoyed reading it and living it.
Do let us know in the comments below of what you think about the song or the meaning of the song. If we have got something wrong or if you have a different opinion of the lyrics, do comment below and we will make it a discussion.
Full Lyrics to “The A Team” by Ed Sheeran