Ed Sheeran Sings About Resiliency and Reflection on "Boat"

Chris Barilla - Author

Apr. 21 2023, Published 1:21 p.m. ET

Ed Sheeran performing live
Source: Getty Images

Considering he is one of the most popular singer-songwriters of the 21st century, it makes sense that everything Ed Sheeran does is met with fanfare.

Case in point: the reveal of Ed's fifth studio album, "-" (pronounced "subtract"), which left fans immediately clamoring for any and all details surrounding the project.

Ed initially decided to give fans a small taste via its lead single, "Eyes Closed," but expanded on the album by also sharing the opening song off of the project — "Boat" — in April 2023.

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The track sees Ed at his finest, delivering the beautiful stripped-down acoustic melodies that fans have come to know and love him for over the years.

With that said, what is the true meaning behind "Boat"? What message is Ed attempting to get across with the song?

Ed Sheeran photographed during an interview
Source: Getty Images
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What is the meaning of "Boat" by Ed Sheeran?

As Rolling Stone notes, Ed's "-" album initially contained tracks he fine-tuned for several years prior. But after Taylor Swift hooked Ed up in 2021 with producer Aaron Dessner, Ed's album evolved into something new – and more vulnerable. At the time they started collaborating, Ed was also dealing with the immense grief of losing several friends including Jamal Edwards and Shane Warne.

Ed told the mag that "Boat" was the first song he worked on for the project. It initially featured a piano and drum backing track, but Ed opted for a stripped-down acoustic rendition in the final recording.

The song's core meaning is one of resiliency, not allowing the circumstances of your life to tear down your resolve no matter how tough the going gets.

That duality is expressed clearly in the song's opening lines when Ed sings, "I need to feel elements to remind me / There's beauty when it's bleak."

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Its chorus approaches quickly, with Ed telling listeners, "The more that I love, the less that I feel / The times that I jumped never were real / They say that all scars will heal, but I know / Maybe, I won't / But the waves won't break my boat."

To the artist, the boat serves as a metaphor for himself, and the waves are a representation of the trials and tribulations that he has faced in life, many of which have tried to knock him off course.

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Ed continues to paint a picture of braving a storm through the second verse, singing, "Stones crash on the boardwalk / The wind rush through thе trees / I'll keep my eyes peeled / The memories always fall short / Of what we could've been." Once again, he compares the feeling of being knocked around by the open water to the way that various unfortunate circumstances have jostled him in real life.

To close out the track, Ed repeats the chorus twice more, putting particular emphasis on the lines "But the waves won't break my boat / The waves won't break my boat." The repetition serves almost as an affirmation, allowing Ed and his listeners to remind themselves that even when things are tough, its important to batten down the hatches and sail through the storm to clearer waters.

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