It’s unlikely that you missed Ed Sheeran on last night’s episode of Game of Thrones, despite what was meant to be a small role. Sheeran’s distracting presence in the season seven premiere was one of its biggest talking points afterward, even among those with just a passing interest in either the HBO drama or the Grammy-winning, redheaded pop star.
Be warned that there are some very slight spoilers ahead for Game of Thrones fans who haven’t quite caught up yet.
Sheeran played — get this — a singing member of a Lannister troop. He nabbed a little bit of extra spotlight when he performed a song for Arya Stark, who runs into him fresh off picking off the entire Frey clan. Fun fact: The song he sings comes straight from A Song of Fire and Ice, the series of books on which the show is based.
It’s actually a cute moment when you take the inspiration behind it into account. Arya’s actress, Maisie Williams, is a huge Ed Sheeran fan. Bringing Sheeran onto set was a surprise for her from showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, and she sure looks pumped in an Instagram photo Sheeran posted from the set:
But the baby-faced redhead’s proving to be an easy target for people online, thanks to everything from his meager acting chops to his ostentatious appearance.
Ed Sheeran on set for his Game of Thrones episode pic.twitter.com/sJxGbyQMhp— Ira Madison III (@ira) July 17, 2017
alex said "i wish this was a nightmare" the second he saw ed sheeran in game of thrones— Mira Gonzalez (@miragonz) July 17, 2017
I don't even watch Game Of Thrones but still mad Ed Sheeran ruined it.— KB (@KaraRBrown) July 17, 2017
Ed Sheeran appearing on game of thrones but not being brutally disemboweled was very disappointing— Brandy Jensen (@BrandyLJensen) July 17, 2017
Here’s a take from Todd VanDerWerff at our sister site, Vox.
Lot of hate for Ed Sheeran on Game of Thrones, but if you think about it, we should send him to an alternate fantasy kingdom, so I'm for it.— Todd VanDerWerff (@tvoti) July 17, 2017
And one from Polygon’s own Julia Alexander:
Also, here is my official take on the Game of Thrones premiere.— Julia Alexander (@loudmouthjulia) July 17, 2017
Ed Sheeran is still not great, bob.
Unlike previous guest spots from bands like Sigur Ros and Mastodon, Sheeran ranks pretty low on the list of cool points. (He’s somewhere between Coldplay’s cameo and Snow Patrol’s on that front.) Although he’s racked up millions of album sales and Spotify streams, not to mention awards and accolades of all kinds, Sheeran continues to be divisive in the music press.
In 2015, Morrissey, the famed frontman of The Smiths and a lifelong curmudgeon, called Sheeran the low point of music. Festival organizers have referred to his sound as “boring.” One reviewer even referred to the multimillionaire as the “master of bland.”
“Sheeran is an artist in control of his own blandness,” wrote Christian Butler of Spiked. “He’d be a refreshing presence on the pop scene if his music wasn’t so obnoxious and mindless. It lazily feeds off pastiche, and his lyrics are often tightly packed and rap-like, yet devoid of nuance.”
These types of visceral, vitriolic responses to Sheeran’s musical presence account for why people can’t stand seeing him cross over into the Game of Thrones world. If Sheeran can even appear in Westeros, is nowhere safe?
But at least his cameo gave Arya, the world’s toughest teenager, a nice moment of calm. If nothing else, viewers should thank Sheeran for that.