English hitmaker Ed Sheeran sang a heavenly acapella version of “Afterglow” with an eight-piece choir, giving the ballad a charming gospel feel. It’s no secret that Sheeran is one of the foremost vocal talents to emerge since the millennium and he displays it fully here, touching hearts with his genuine delivery.
The choir does a brilliant job elevating the performance, which fittingly takes place in a gorgeous church, adding a striking visual element to the video. There’s something so powerful about hearing that many people singing together acapella that just hits you right in the chest. The video has been viewed seven million times on YouTube, and you can check it out for yourself below.
The vocalists don’t appear to be miked up, but the cavernous reverb on the track definitely fits the church setting of the video and adds to the haunting feeling of the vocals. The original studio recording features Sheeran’s vocals multitracked, but hearing a choir sing with him brings a deeper resonance to the lyrics.
The studio recording of “Afterglow” was released in December 2020 and the following year it was included as a bonus track on the Japanese edition of Sheeran’s fifth album =. The lyrics are very straight-forward, celebrating the romance of a pair of lovers. The song was also promoted on YouTube with a single-take performance from Sheeran, which was viewed 120 million times. You can hear this original arrangement for the song in the video below.
The studio version of “Afterglow” features a sparse arrangement with just acoustic guitar, synths and voice. You couldn’t strip it back much more, but fans are glad they did for the stunning acapella version. Listeners added appreciative comments below the video such as “The harmonies in this beautiful song are sensational,” and “Now that’s what I would like to call perfection. No background music, no instruments. Just pure soul-soothing harmony.”
Sheeran took an extended hiatus from public life before the release of “Afterglow”, and had not released a single for the prior 18 months. Fans got quite the Christmas present from Sheeran that year though after it dropped on December 21. At the time he explained that he wrote the track during his time away and that “it’s not the first single from the next album, it’s just a song I love, and hope you love too.”
Despite being a lowkey release, at least as far as Sheeran is concerned, the song became a #1 hit in Israel and hit the top 10 in a further 10 countries around the world, including going to #2 in his native UK. It furthermore became his 13th top 10 hit on the US Billboard Adult Top 40, which is the most for any male solo artist on the chart. The simple arrangement was also well-received by critics, who praised its intimate mood and melody.