It’s probably best to preface this article by telling you that I’m one of those people who voluntarily woke up at 5am GMT a little over two weeks ago to listen to Ed Sheeran’s two new singles as soon as they were released. Keeping that in mind, it’s probably safe to say that this won’t be the most unbiased article I have ever written.
I discovered Ed Sheeran when he was at the height of his fame from X. What immediately attracted me to his music was the original tunes, the (sadly) nowadays rare attention given to lyrics, and his ability to pull off a wholesome rendition of any of his songs live with just his smooth voice, a guitar and a loop pedal. Fortunately, even after a year away from the limelight, Shape Of You still plays to all these strengths. Sheeran effectively uses his lyrical storytelling abilities with quirky details from the first line itself, using, as Ben pointed out last week, “clever little half rhymes and interesting rhythms” which keep the listener hooked.
What I truly appreciate about the lyrics though, is how Shape Of You takes a subject that is truly overused in current pop music - wanting someone you meet in a ba r- and refreshes it. When you look at songs about “wanting” that have reached the charts over the past year, they fall into two distinct genres. The first is about physical attraction, and nothing but physical attraction, found in tracks like One Dance, Sensual, and Cake By The Ocean. The other is “true love” e.g. Say You Won’t Let Go and Cold Water. It’s oddly striking to find a song where the two collide. Even though Shape Of You, as evident from the title, speaks primarily of physical attraction, there’s a deeper element to the relationship discussed.
“Although my heart is falling too I’m in love with your body.”
Musically, Sheeran still stands out. With an interesting use of falsetto, wonderful solo harmonisation (which I can already imagine will be even more incredible performed live), and a memorable albeit simple tune that makes you want to dance, Shape Of You is just as enjoyable as his previous works. What I would criticise however, would be the catchy but unoriginal synth intro to the song: It’s never a good sign if the opening of a brand new song causes another one to start playing in your head (Sia’s Cheap Thrills, in this case).
Joy doesn’t quite cover the emotions of fans like myself with Ed Sheeran dominating both the first and second place on the charts this week. To be honest, Castle On The Hill was my preferred track of the two new releases, with its touching lyrics and Ed’s incredibly appealing voice at its best showing off its range. However, admittedly, the theme of growing up and life changing as well as the melody is more stereotypically pop, whereas Shape Of You has a more original vibe to it. Further down, Rag’n’Bone Man’s Human, in the third place is a great listen as well, especially due to the artist’s attractively deep voice.
PearShaped writers have often despaired over how the charts function nowadays - how one song reaches the top and stays there incessantly while seasons change. On the one hand, I agree. Then again, I can’t help but hope that Ed Sheeran remains the subject of this column for a few weeks to come. In my opinion, if anyone in the current music industry deserves it, it’s him.