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Is Ed Sheeran sexy? An investigation

Ed Sheeran, who sold out three shows at Madison Square Garden last year, opened for Taylor Swift’s “Red” tour and now has a new album called “x” (as in multiply), at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York, June 14, 2014.  ?  I don?  t look like your typical pop star,?   says the pint-size 23-year-old British folk singer with a mop of red hair and an unassuming mien. ?  I don?  t sing songs like your typical pop star.” (Jesse Dittmar/The New York Times) -- PHOTO MOVED IN ADVANCE AND NOT FOR USE - ONLINE OR IN PRINT - BEFORE JUNE 22, 2014.
Ed Sheeran, who sold out three shows at Madison Square Garden last year, opened for Taylor Swift’s “Red” tour and now has a new album called “x” (as in multiply), at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York, June 14, 2014. ? I don? t look like your typical pop star,? says the pint-size 23-year-old British folk singer with a mop of red hair and an unassuming mien. ? I don? t sing songs like your typical pop star.” (Jesse Dittmar/The New York Times) -- PHOTO MOVED IN ADVANCE AND NOT FOR USE - ONLINE OR IN PRINT - BEFORE JUNE 22, 2014.
Published Aug. 22, 2017

Start with the guitar. Guitars are sexy, right? Historically, anytime anyone straps on a guitar, it's only a matter of time before they come running.

Also sexy: Tattoos. You don't want to overdo it, but the right ink with the right meaning in the right place, and it can also be a turn-on.

It helps if you have great hair, the kind that looks slightly mussed and not too fussed-over. If your demeanor matches the hair, that also goes a long way. The gift of gab helps, but what you really want is to seem approachable, touchable, nonthreatening. You want to seem attainable. You want to seem real.

Add it all up, and you have to wonder:

Is Ed Sheeran sexy?

Frizzy, Muppetty, Hobbitty Ed Sheeran?

Ginger, half-rapping, cargo-short-wearing Ed Sheeran?

Look: The 26-year-old former street busker's bona fides as a teenage crush are undeniable; he's spawned squeals for years touring and working with acts like Taylor Swift and One Direction. Thanks to his gift for charming and often heart-rending ballads — he's rightly been likened to Van Morrison — he's become arguably the world's most popular male pop star. Not only can he fill British stadiums and headline Glastonbury with ease, fans gobbled up every ticket to his Tuesday concert at Amalie Arena almost instantly.

But in 2017, Sheeran's status as a cult sex symbol has gone mainstream. Though he'd written about hook-ups before, none of those songs popped with the hibachi sizzle of Shape of You, one of two lead singles from his new album ÷ (Divide). Here was young Teddy caressing a woman "handmade for somebody like me" until he can't get her out of his mind: "Last night you were in my room / and now my bedsheets smell like you." Compared to The A Team or Thinking Out Loud or Photograph, such lines are practically pornographic.

Exactly how Sheeran became a rock 'n' roll sex god, even he doesn't seem to know. Back in 2013, he found his inclusion in People's Sexiest Man Alive issue "utterly ridiculous."

"I'm sure I'm the only person on this list who has a belly," Sheeran wrote in the issue. "I brush my teeth though. My other usual grooming habits are showering and a shave now and then. Sometimes I put on a suit. Or not! I get voted worst-dressed quite a lot, so I obviously don't put too much thought into it."

But in a March interview with Rolling Stone, Sheeran admitted it was a package that worked. That same year, he was hooking up with Swift's famous pals while opening her North American tour.

"I would often find myself in situations just kind of waking up and looking over and being like, 'How the f--- did that happen?"

Yes: How, indeed, did Ed Sheeran become so desirable?

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"Um, you'd have to ask someone else," said his good friend and tourmate James Blunt. "I'm not sure I'm highly qualified to say."

To Blunt, Sheeran is just a pal, someone who helped him open up as a lyricist, and with whom he can share a couple of drinks. They play soccer in their downtime and meet up with mutual friends in different cities. But he does witness firsthand the rabid response Sheeran gets at sold-out arenas, especially among younger fans.

In interviews, Sheeran does seem eternally willing to go along with just about any good time — yet another mark in his favor that helps him overcome not being as conventionally handsome as, say, James Blunt. He's out there living it up in the world, goofing and grinning and charming his way into your bedsheets. As Katy Perry put it during a February chat with Sheeran on BBC Radio 1: "Everybody loves him, no one's scared of him, they want to date him. They can have him."

Everyone, it seems, sure wants to.

Contact Jay Cridlin at cridlin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.

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