The Musical Roots and New Fruits of Ed Sheeran’s Shape of you

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The song was released in 2017 January and has earned itself a worldwide recognition, hitting an astounding eight hundred and seventy one million, eight hundred and eighty seven thousand,  seven hundred and seventy two views on YouTube. The song is one of the two lead singles, along with “Castle on the Hill” from the singer’s third studio album which was also released in 2017. This song was produced by the Ed Sheeran featuring Steve Mac. The song “Shape of you” has topped numerous singles charts in over 30 countries including the U.S., UK, Australia and Canada. The song has a universal feel and versatility, giving it a wide audience worldwide. “Shape of you “has just the right balance and moderation to it.

            The song, “Shape of you” was composed by Ed Sheeran  in collaboration with Johnny McDaid, Kandi Burruss, Tameka  Cottle, and Kevin Brigg. It talks about a relationship between two lovers who meet at a bar and within a short while escalates into an intimate relation between. The lyrics of the song touches on the possibility of a sexual attraction leading to serious relationship but does not really dwell on this aspect. The lyrics go further into the sexual attraction that is there between the two lovers and how intrigued the singer is by the features and appearance of the female being sang to.

            As much as “Shape of you” is a pop song, it is also fused with dancehall beats as well as a tropical house feel and beats to it. The song has significant acoustics. The acoustics are clear and the strumming is clear and audible throughout the song. Also, through the course of the song, the singer sings over a marimba beat that runs for the entire song and is also the first beat that plays solo for the first few seconds of the song. The composition has a gradual tempo from the beginning as it progresses. It begins with the marimba, followed by toms and then followed by an acoustic guitar almost immediately. Just before the chorus, there is a pause which is followed by an interesting drop which is where the bass drum joins in. This composition of the song is in common time and the progression which it follows is quite basic.

            Shape of You was released on the sixth of January, the year 2017 as a digital download. The song was produced and two record labels namely Asylum Records and Atlantic Recording Cooperation, commonly referred to as Atlantic Records. The recording of the song is three minutes and fifty three minutes long. The song is a lead single along with “Castle on the Hill” from Ed Sheeran’s third studio album “Divide”. The song does have some pitch correction incorporated into it. However, the song has a rather moderate tempo and therefore very little pitch correction was needed to make modifications to the song. In the song, pitch correction has been used on the chorus which makes it sounds as though the singer has backup singers helping him. The pitch correction is first heard in the song where he sings “Say, boy, let’s not talk too much, Grab on my waist and put that body on me Come on now, follow my lead, Come, come on now, follow my lead” (Ed Sheeran). The pitch correction in the song does not alter the flow, the progression of the vocals and the tempo but rather blends in well adding an impressive feel to the chorus of the song. The pitch correction has also enhanced a level of harmony to the song. The pitch correction in this song, though minimal, was needed in the production of the song.

            Ed Sheeran has done a number of interviews after the release of this song, both on television shows as well as on the radio. Ed Sheeran reveals that he mainly got into music to become a song writer along with his friends talented in the same. In an interview on BBC radio, Ed Sheeran disclosed to the public that the song “Shape” of you was not originally meant for him. He said that while he was writing this song, it was initially meant to be sung by American singer and superstar Rihanna. It was not until half way the writing process when he decided along with his fellow writers and his record label that he does the song instead. Ed Sheeran also added that among the reasons why he chose to do this song himself was because of lyrics such as “putting Van the Man on the jukebox” which he felt would not sit right with the singer it was intended for (Roschke 1). Apart from Rihanna, the singer also said that there was also a British band that he was thinking of giving the song to. The band goes by the name Rudimental. Finally, Ed Sheeran also shared that the song “Shape of you” was initially not meant to be on the album “Divide” and that it was the last song to be added on the album. He states that he only found the song good to be on the album after it was already on it.

            According to Roschke (2017),  The song has been reviewed on a number of sites as well as blogs from across the world. It has been reviewed because of various aspects of the song. It has been reviewed because of its suggestive lyrics, the interesting and unique beat it has and finally because of the captivating music video shot for it. Most of those who have reviewed this song have given a lot of positive feedback about the song. However, there are those who have used this song to generate observations or rather allegations that do not really stand up to scrutiny. An example of this is by reviewer by the name Ryan Roschke who claims that “He Probably Wrote It About His Current Girlfriend” (Roschke). This is a vague assumption which can only be confirmed or denied by the singer himself. Its Style is a fusion of pop, tropical house and dancehall. The arrangement of pop, tropical house and dancehall runs from the beginning to the end of the song. The song is unique and rather versatile as it serves both the purposes of a danceable song as well as a romantic or rather love song.

            The singer has cited a number of music icons who have played a big part in influencing his music career. Ed Sheeran claims that his musical influences are the Beatles, Dylan, Nizlopi, Eminem and his biggest; Rolling Stone whose music he says made him.  The Rolling Stones were majorly influenced by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.

            The structure of the lyric of the song is pretty much a stereotype of most of the pop songs sung by other artists as well as those previously done by Ed Sheeran himself on his previous songs. The general structure of the song is arranged as follows; verse, pre-chorus, chorus, verse, pre-chorus, chorus, bridge, chorus. This is a very common structure and is widely used by artists, both those who do pop as well as those doing other genres. The genre of the lyric of this song can be termed as a fusion of pop, dancehall and tropical house (Roschke 34). The genre of the lyric is made more interesting by the fact that it does not strain the ear since none of the instrumentations incorporated into it is over-doing the other. The general feel of the song is easy going and not much energy is used in the structure or the instruments of the song. The running time of the song is three minutes and fifty three seconds which is the average length for Ed Sheeran’s other songs.

            Ed Sheeran in this song is consciously playing with tradition. He has done this through the fusion into the song an island style beat. This is an intentional twist to the pop kind of songs that many people know him for. The singer is relying on tradition as well in the song. The part where the singer majorly relies on tradition is in the structure of the genre in terms of the placing of the chorus, verses and bridge of the song. The singer also relies on tradition in the acoustics of the song.


            To conclude, the paper provides an analysis of Shape of You under the topic the Living Traditions of modern music. It brings into factor the historical set up of this kind of pop music as well a structural breakdown of the properties of the song. More so, the paper explores the reviews, related songs and the artists behind the hit single.

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