The A Team (song)

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"The A Team"
Single by Ed Sheeran
from the album +
ReleasedJune 12, 2011
FormatDigital download
GenreFolk, soul
LabelLava Records/Atlantic Records
Writer(s)Ed Sheeran
Producer(s)Jake Gosling
Ed Sheeran singles chronology
"If I Could"
"The A Team"
"Young Guns"
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"The A Team"
Single by Ed Sheeran
from the album +
ReleasedJune 12, 2011
FormatDigital download
GenreFolk, soul
LabelLava Records/Atlantic Records
Writer(s)Ed Sheeran
Producer(s)Jake Gosling
Ed Sheeran singles chronology
"If I Could"
"The A Team"
"Young Guns"

"The A Team" is a song by English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran. It was released as a digital download in the United Kingdom on 12 June 2011, serving as the lead single from his debut album, +. The track was written by Ed Sheeran and debuted at number three on the UK Singles Chart, with sales of 57,607 copies.[1]

Musically, "The A Team" is a folk ballad with lyrics that speak of a crack-addicted prostitute (crack is known as a "Class A drug"). It was written after Sheeran visited a homeless shelter and heard some of the stories of the lives people had been living. Making the song upbeat was Sheeran's way of masking the heavy subject matter. Also using the term "Class A Team" was another way of masking it a little more. The song was sung by Sheeran, following a last-minute performance at an event for the homeless. The chorus of "The A Team" was also used by Sheeran in the track "Little Lady", which features Mikill Pane. It is available on No. 5 Collaborations Project.

The song received acclaim from critics, praising the lyrics and production as well as Sheeran's vocal performance. "The A Team" became a top 10 hit in Australia, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. The song was serviced to U.S. radio formats in late 2012 and became a sleeper hit within the United States, gradually rising up the Billboard Hot 100 to peak at number 16 – becoming Sheeran's first single on that chart. On 5 December the song received a Grammy Award nomination for Song of the Year, Sheeran's first Grammy nomination.

Background and release[edit]

"'The A Team' came from an experience I had when I did a gig at a homeless shelter", says Sheeran of the song. "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." In a video interview with Billboard, Sheeran explained the song's title. "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."[2] The single was released 1 May 2011, in the UK through Atlantic Records. In U.S. "The A Team" was serviced to radio format Adult album alternative (also triple-A, AAA, or adult alternative) on 27 February 2012.


According to the sheet music published by EMI Music Publishing, "The A Team" is set in common time with a tempo of 170 beats per minute. Written in the key of A major; Sheeran's vocals range from the note of A2 to A4. Instrumentation is provided by guitar, piano and vocals.[3] "The A Team" is an indie folk/soul song. Gary Trust from Billboard compared the song to "folk/rock hits like Suzanne Vega's 'Luka' (about child abuse), 10,000 Maniacs' 'Like the Weather' (depression) and Tracy Chapman's 'Fast Car' (alcoholism)", songs that "shade their heavy topics under a melodic canopy".[2]

Critical reception[edit]

"The A Team" has received critical acclaim by music critics. Ryan Reed from Billboard praised the songwriting and musical composition writing:

[T]he song is a dark yet overwhelmingly tuneful slice of jazz-folk. Built on palm-muted guitars and a simmering string arrangement, Sheeran chronicles a young girl's descent into an endless web of drug addiction and prostitution: "Stuck in her daydream… Lately, her face seems slowly sinking, wasting, crumbling like pastries," he sings. A songwriting prodigy—he released his first two albums while still in high school—and up-and-coming phenom in his native Britain, Sheeran has an unflinching eye for subtle details and colorful imagery, and his music is full of soulful vocal runs and patient atmosphere. Although the subject matter of "The A Team" isn't exactly radio-friendly, the hook sure is.[4]

Mark Moore of awarded the single 7/10 and stating that the song is a "beautiful melodic track that is made by its dark lyrical content..."[5] Critics also praised Sheeran's vocals. Robert Copsey of Digital Spy awarded the song 5 stars out of 5 and wrote, "man-and-his-guitar concept is about as cliché as they come, but it's his intelligent lyrics and softer-than-cream-cheese vocals that set him apart from the pack." He further praised the song commenting "Sheeran's frank honesty and lump-in-the-throat-like emotion are weighted by a folky melody and off-kilter acoustics."[6]

Chart performance[edit]

The track made its debut on the UK Singles Chart at number three on 19 June 2011[7] – entering as the second highest new entry behind Calvin Harris and the Kelis-assisted track, "Bounce", which debuted at number two. On its second week charting, the single fell two places to number five – falling a further place to number six on 3 July. On its fourth charting week, "The A Team" returned to its peak of number three – where it spent three consecutive weeks.[7] "The A Team" became the best selling debut single and the overall eight best selling single of 2011, shifting 801,000 copies.[8] "The A Team" also saw chart success elsewhere, peaking at number 2 and number 3 on the Scottish Singles and Irish Singles Chart, respectively.

The single debuted on the Australian Singles Chart at number thirty-two, 23 October 2011. It peaked at number two for two weeks[9] and has been certified triple platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) for sales of 210,000 copies.[10] On the New Zealand Singles Chart the entered at number thirty-eight, 21 November 2011. It peaked at number three and has been certified platinum by Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ) for sales of 15,000 copies.[11]

After being serviced to radio formats in U.S., the song made its first American chart entry on Billboard's component Adult Pop Songs at number thirty-eight.[12] It also debuted at number 95 on the Billboard Hot 100 and has since peaked at number 16, becoming his first top 20 hit on the chart. It also peaked at 29 on the Canadian Hot 100. The song's final position on the Canadian Hot 100 was number 45 on 9 March 2013.

Music video[edit]

The music video for the song was shot and edited by Ruskin Kyle (Rivers Rush Video Production Company).[13] It was uploaded to YouTube on 22 April 2010.[14] Sheeran refers to when he first created the demo for the song during an interview with 96.1 KISS,[15] "Whenever I wrote songs in the past, I never recorded them down because I didn't have a recorder but I had a Mac computer and made a video version of it." The original demos for "The A Team" were originally all recorded in this manner but not released to the public. When asked about his inspiration behind the Grammy nominated hit, Sheeran shared, "The A Team is written about a woman that I met in a homeless shelter." It narrates the story of a girl addicted to drugs, living on the streets of London, played by Selina MacDonald. She tried to sell magazines for money, but only managed to sell one to the artist of the song, Ed Sheeran. The girl struggled so much that she resorted to selling her body to earn money. She may not have loved it, but it provided an income in general for the young woman. Later on, the pain became too much for her to bear and she just wanted to end it all. She traded in her "dirty" money for drugs, referencing the lyric "...and in a pipe she flies to the motherland." In the end, the girl succumbs to her drug abuse. An acoustic, unplugged version of the song was also uploaded onto the official Ed Sheeran YouTube page on May 10, 2011.

Live performances[edit]

Ed Sheeran performed the song on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on March 30, 2012 and on the talk show Conan on May 8, 2012. Sheeran performed an acoustic version of the song live at the Diamond Jubilee Concert in front of Queen Elizabeth II on 4 June 2012.[16] Sheeran performed the song on The Ellen DeGeneres Show along with "Grade 8" on October 4, 2012 and on Jimmy Kimmel Live! along with "You Need Me, I Don't Need You" on December 19, 2012. Sheeran also performed "The A Team" as a duet with Elton John at the 2013 Grammy Awards on February 10, 2013.

Cover versions[edit]

In July 2011, Birdy covered the song at BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge.[17][18] Kendall Schmidt from Big Time Rush posted a cover of the song on YouTube in June.[19] On 17 June 2012, during One Direction's Up All Night Tour, member Niall Horan covered the song at Anaheim's The Theatre at Honda Center.[20] The X Factor contestant Lucy Spraggan has also used the music from the song, rewriting the lyrics from the perspective of the man who uses the services of the girl of the song, with version entitled "The B Team". X Factor Indonesia contestant "Mikha Angelo" covered the song in the third gala show.[citation needed] Also, the Jonas Brothers covered the song on their tour during Latin America.[21] In May 2013, Caroline Glaser performed the song on the live playoffs of The Voice. Felicia Hallengren did a cover at the contest Talang Ronneby 2013. In 2013 the French movie "Les Gamins" used a cover version by St John's International School choir for its OST [22] [23] [24] On January 19, 2013, singer Masha, covered the song on her YouTube channel, as of November 2013 Masha's cover has received nearly 50,000 views.[25]

Track listing[edit]

Digital download
1."The A Team"  4:18
2."The A Team" (Shy FX's Ackee and Saltfish Remix)4:28
3."The A Team" (KOAN Sound Remix)4:39
4."The A Team" (True Tiger Remix)3:39
5."The A Team" (Acoustic)4:01
CD single
1."The A Team"  4:18
2."The A Team" (KOAN Sound Remix)4:39
7" vinyl
1."The A Team"  4:18
2."The A Team" (Shy FX's Ackee and Saltfish Remix)4:28

Charts and certifications[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (2011–13)Peak
Australia (ARIA)[26]2
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[27]19
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[28]18
Belgium (Ultratip Wallonia)[29]26
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[30]29
Czech Republic (IFPI)[31]31
France (SNEP)[32]43
Germany (Media Control AG)[33]9
Ireland (IRMA)[34]3
Israel (Media Forest)[35]6
Japan (Japan Hot 100)[36]5
Luxembourg (Billboard)[37]8
Netherlands (Mega Single Top 100)[38]2
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[39]3
Norway (VG-lista)[40]5
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[41]2
Slovakia (IFPI)[42]84
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[43]44
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[44]27
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[45]23
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[46]3
US Billboard Hot 100[47]16
US Mainstream Top 40 (Billboard)[48]9
US Adult Top 40 (Billboard)[49]6
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[50]11
US Rock Songs (Billboard)[51]4


Australia (ARIA)[52]3× Platinum210,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[53]2× Platinum160,000^
Germany (BVMI)[54]Gold150,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[55]Platinum15,000*
Norway (IFPI Norway)[56]2× Platinum20,000*
Sweden (GLF)[57]Platinum40,000x
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[58]Gold15,000x
United Kingdom1,000,000[59]
United States (RIAA)[60]2× Platinum2,000,000*

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (2011)Position
Australia (ARIA)[61]24
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[62]8
Chart (2012)Position
France (SNEP)[63]145
US Billboard Hot 100[64]75

Release history[edit]

Ireland10 June 2011[65]Digital downloadAtlantic Records
United Kingdom1 May 2011[66]
10 June 2011[67]
13 June 2011[68]CD single
United States27 August 2012Mainstream radio


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External links[edit]