Securing a deal with Elton John's management company, he supported Example on his U.K. tour and, after signing with Atlantic Records, he became only the third artist to score a Top 75 album purely on download sales, when his No. 5 Collaborations project, a star-studded seven-track EP featuring Wiley, JME, and Devlin, charted at number 47 in 2011. That same year he released his major-label debut studio album, +. The album was a massive hit, selling over a million copies in the U.K. alone in just six months, and charting highly in many other countries. Sheeran then went about boosting his profile, co-writing songs for One Direction and Taylor Swift. He toured the U.S. with Swift on her massive 2013 arena tour, and saw his song "I See Fire" featured on the closing credits of the smash hit movie The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
By the end of 2013, Sheeran shifted his focus from performing to recording his sophomore album with Rick Rubin and Pharrell producing. Keeping with the mathematical theme, the album was titled x ("Multiply"). Appearing in June 2014, x encompassed his acoustic/hip-hop hybrid sound, but also had an R&B feel in places along with straight-ahead pop. The record debuted at number one on both the U.S. and U.K. charts, reached gold or platinum status in 15 countries, and the singles for "Sing" and "Thinking Out Loud" both topped the British charts. ~ Jon O'Brien