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In early 2011, Sheeran independently released the extended play No. 5 Collaborations Project. After signing with Asylum Records, his debut album, + (pronounced "plus"), was released in September 2011. It topped the UK and Australian charts, reached number five in the US, and has since been certified seven-times platinum in the UK. The album contains the single "The A Team", which earned him the Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically. In 2012, Sheeran won the Brit Awards for Best British Male Solo Artist and British Breakthrough Act. "The A Team" was nominated for Song of the Year at the 2013 Grammy Awards, where he performed the song with Elton John.
His second studio album, x (pronounced "multiply"), was released in June 2014. It peaked at number one in the UK and the US. In 2015, x won the Brit Award for Album of the Year, and he received the Ivor Novello Award for Songwriter of the Year from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors. His single from x, "Thinking Out Loud", earned him two Grammy Awards at the 2016 ceremony: Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance. In May 2016, x was named the second-best-selling album worldwide of 2015.