"Tenerife Sea" is a song by English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran. It was co-written by Snow Patrol member Johnny McDaid and Foy Vance, and features production from Rick Rubin. The song was released on 20 June 2014 as part of his second studio album, x. It entered the UK Singles Chart at number 93 despite lacking an independent release.
Sheeran wrote "Tenerife Sea" while in Nashville, the capital of the US state of Tennessee. It was inspired by the events following the 2013 Grammy Awards, wherein his single "The A Team" was nominated for Song of the Year, a first Grammy nomination for Sheeran. He lost the award to the American band Fun for its song "We Are Young". Along with his girlfriend, Sheeran attended the after-party where he, being in a new experience, felt uninterested participating in the conversations. According to Sheeran, "neither of [them] wanted to be there - you just want to be with this one person". He also told The San Francisco Examiner: "It was a very odd atmosphere, where everyone was out for themselves. And I found myself being competitive, as well, and pissed off that I didn’t win, which felt very unhealthy."
"Tenerife Sea" is a love song, in which Sheeran's vocals are multi-tracked. Randall Roberts of the Los Angeles Times likened the song to that of Eric Clapton's 1977 ballad "Wonderful Tonight" and Ginuwine's "In Those Jeans".
The song's title is a reference to Tenerife in the Canary Islands of Spain. According to Sheeran, the hue of his girlfriend's eyes are as blue as the seas in Tenerife, "seriously blue, like electric blue". The lyrics speaks of Sheeran's girlfriend who he sees "really pretty" in her dress.
"Tenerife Sea" was released on 20 June 2014 as part of Sheeran's second studio album, x, serving as its eighth track. However, the song had been performed live in both the US and Sheeran's home country prior to the parent album's release. In the US, Sheeran performed "Tenerife Sea" in October 2013 at a concert in Madison Square Garden. He also sang "Tenerife Sea" at an intimate NYC-based Mercury Lounge show, where he performed two other new songs, although recording was not allowed. On 24 March 2014, Sheeran debuted the song at London's Royal Albert Hall for the Teenage Cancer Trust benefit show. Few British media noted the song, which was thought of hinting at the same musical style Sheeran would be taking for his then-unreleased second album.
The song was particularly popular in streaming services on theme-specific playlists. In April 2015, commercial streaming company Spotify released a report of the most-streamed tracks worldwide under the category sleep. "Tenerife Sea" is placed at number 14, joining Sheeran's other 6 songs ranked in the top 20. Sleep is one of Spotify's most popular categories "that people also use for general relaxation and to help themselves unwind". The Guardian columnist Tim Dowling suggests that the report is an indication of "very popular, slightly mellow songs that keep cropping up on sleep playlists" but not a list of a "carefully curated journey to unconsciousness". In June 2015, Spotify compiled the most popular first dance songs based on an analysis of 400,000 wedding playlists worldwide. "Tenerife Sea" was the fifth most popular.
"Tenerife Sea" was noted by critics and journalists. In an article written for Valentine's Day, Marika Azzopardi of The Malta Independent compiled "some great moments of love in the arts", including "Tenerife Sea" among other songs. Azzopardi writes that Sheeran "goes all soft and summery" with the song. Jon Caramanica of The New York Times called "Tenerife Sea" an "unreserved love song". Allison Stewart of The Washington Post noted Sheeran's layered vocals, writing: "'Tenerife Sea' is lush and gorgeous, its vocals stacked to the heavens." Jim Beviglia of the American Songwriter thought that although "tidy", "Tenerife Sea" comes "toothless" compared with the "daring confessionals" Sheeran made in the album's other tracks.
Jon Dolan of the Rolling Stone called "Tenerife Sea" an "oversweet ballad". Jason Lipshutz of Billboard had the same thought, calling it a "sticky-sweet" wedding song. Writing for The Irish Times, Lauren Murphy noted that the album's few songs, including "Tenerife Sea", are "simply dull". Kitty Empire of The Guardian thinks that the song "dwells at simpering length on how wonderful a girl looks in her dress".
Due to high streaming rates, all of the album's 12 tracks, including "Tenerife Sea", entered the UK Singles Chart. The song debuted at number 93, has peaked at number 62 and spent 7 weeks on the chart. Elsewhere, "Tenerife Sea" peaked at number 53 in Ireland and number 86 in Slovakia. Although it did not appear in the overall singles chart in the US, "Tenerife Sea" entered at number 24 on the Billboard Twitter Top Tracks chart. This chart activity is ascribed to the acoustic version performed by Jame McVey, guitarist of the British pop group The Vamps, whose video was uploaded in YouTube.
Credits adapted from x album liner notes: