Ed Sheeran Psych-mod rockers of the 1960s band The Creation once made the goofy-but-engaging claim that their music was "red with purple flashes." Repositioning that quote for the current crop of male heartthrob singer/songwriters, their bland ballads are "beige with ecru flashes." Enter Ed Sheeran. The redheaded English troubadour earned success the hard way, playing 312 gigs in 2009 alone and self-releasing scads of independent EPs. So it seems churlish, as the Brits say, to point out that there's little to distinguish Sheeran from his cohorts in the silver-tongued hottie brigade — John Mayer, James Blunt, Jason Mraz, et al. It wasn't always so. Last year, Sheeran dropped his No. 5 Collaborations Project EP, a refreshing grime-infused blend of classic singer/songwriter craftsmanship and up-to-date R&B. The skittering beats and scuzzy guitars of Sheeran's acoustic hip-hop set him apart from his peers, but no more. Now that he's hit the big time, Sheeran has back-peddled into standard whitebread, vaguely folk-rock balladry. Sheeran's approachable persona and earnest delivery connect with his fans, but if he continues down his chosen (commercially successful) path, the needle will just keep pegging in the beige. With Meagan and Liz, Noah Guthrie.