Monday, January 16th, 2017

Ed Sheeran – Shape of You

We’re still a bit grouchy…


[Video][Website]
[4.60]

Elisabeth Sanders: The fact that this is a decent-ish bop at its core can in no way outweigh the total, full-body revulsion I feel when hearing Ed Sheeran — a still-damp bridge troll who seems to have made some kind of unholy deal with a dark force (Taylor Swift?) for fame — say “that body on me.” I’d write more but I have to go boil myself.
[2]

Anthony Easton: I cannot get my mind around Sheeran as a sexual being, and this sung-spoken ode to fucking is the least erotic, mostly because it does not move substantially. There’s just a kind of spitty mumble stumbling over a rudimentary beat — and not rudimentary in a four-on-the-floor sense. 
[2]

Ramzi Awn: I’m not sure what this is, which is usually a good thing, but I do know that I don’t need to hear about Ed Sheeran’s bedsheets. Like at all. 
[2]

Lilly Gray: This is an inoffensive “let’s fuck” song if there ever was one, but of the two Sheeranisms on offer today I prefer this version. His voice is fine; he sings solidly and a little plainly, rather than yanking that tortured scratchy indie boy voice up and down the register, which makes his false duet in the pre-chorus stand out more. I also like that his earnest In Love™ brand, prefect for undanceable songs at a wedding reception, is side-stepped for a mildly saucy pick-up narrative. That said, “your love was handmade/for someone like me” clunks so profoundly I’m elbowed out of the song. The frankness and emptiness of his appraisal of her body and their sex is not going to light any fires in amorous listeners, and the oh-I chorus is dressing for the job it wants as a club banger rather than the job it has, as a weird, passionless chant. “Come on be my baby” is on the same lo-cal, lo-lust diet. 
[4]

Tim de Reuse: You can look for something cute and flirtatious in the little things — songs like this have worked on less narrative material than we get here — but you don’t have to be so damn literal. Better to be explicit or corny or overenthusiastic than go through the laundry list of mundane generalities we get here; boring is surely close to the polar opposite of sexy. It has a decent groove, I guess, even if it feels like it’s grooving purely because it’s obliged to.
[4]

Jonathan Bradley: Sheeran expects the tropical house rhythm to do a lot of the work on “Shape of You,” its burbles nudging his multi-tracked smolders forward. It works for a while, but he runs into a familiar dilemma: a stiff R&B presence, he sorely needs the energy of a dance beat but is most believable in his poisonous acoustic mode, lacing pretty guitar figures with incongruous malice (“Little Things,” “Love Yourself”). “Shape of You” tries to let its hair down, but from the vividly bland date narrative — Van Morrison on the jukebox, a cheap meal, taxicab petting — to a hook far too dependent on harmonies, it feels detached. Where on “Sing,” Sheeran found a puckish taste for adventure, here he sounds too much like a schlub trying to play smooth.
[5]

Alfred Soto: I was gonna say, “God, another ‘Love Yourself'” until I remembered this dude co-wrote it, although lines like “We were talking about sweet and sour” suggest he hasn’t used the royalties for songwriting workshops. Double tracking his voice high and low — how very Justin Timberlake. The pseudo-warmth of the title hook and the fake winks at body sensitivity are all Sheeran’s.
[3]

Mo Kim: If “Shape of You” fails as love song, it works much better as meta-commentary; in his writing or his performance, Sheeran gives little indication of his stakes in the relationship beyond his (and by extension, our) own investment in the idea of the relationship, of eating at unnamed rundown buffets and knowing what bed sheets smell like the morning after and having a song to share on the jukebox or the taxicab radio. Even the separation of heart from body (or the ultimate privileging of body, in the most literal sense) suggests an inability to commit himself fully in the mutual knowing of a lover, one he himself recognizes and deliberately enforces. But damned if he doesn’t make it easy to fall in love with the shape of this: the twinkling marimba, the rousing string plucks, the crackle of those dance room snaps and thumps. And where is it, for many of us pop fans, that those fantasies began? The radio, of course, where at sixteen I was losing myself in music like this, one of the few spaces I had in which I could be young and unapologetically queer and, maybe someday, loved. “The club isn’t the best place to find a lover,” he admits, but there’s room in its cramped halls to project expansive imaginations; this song was handmade for somebody like us.
[8]

Juana Giaimo: Ed Sheeran can’t avoid being tender and cute and honest and deep. That’s why “Shape of You” is about bodies, but also about the idealized vision you have of a new person in your first moments shared together. The upbeat singles of X (“Don’t,” “Sing”) suddenly sound quite dull compared to the warmness of  “Shape Of You,” especially because of that subtle reggaeton beat that can be so physical. There is no need for a big chorus when there are so many catchy moments — even his rapping is easier to follow now. But it isn’t needed either when you rely on looping, creating a pattern than is slowly completed with layers, just like the relationship told in the lyrics: it starts with a conversation at a bar, but he soon can identify all those details that make her unique. 
[8]

Joshua Copperman: One thing amusing about both this and “Castle On The Hill” is how he shouts out different artifacts of the generation before his own — “Born To Run”/”Tiny Dancer” in “Castle,” and Van Morrison here. Lazy trope or tribute to the music he was raised on? Who knows! Like “Castle,” this wants to be a slow-burner, but it also wants to get in on the tropical-house trend that’s been everywhere for a while now. This results in the first couple of minutes feeling too empty, but the last two minutes providing energy that the song should have had by the first chorus. The most memorable parts of any Ed Sheeran song are usually the looping vocalizations, whether it’s the “all the voices in my mind/calling out across the line” bridge in “Bloodstream” or the chants in “Give Me Love,” and the “Come on be my baby, come on” counter-melody is no exception. It’s not bad at all, but the way Ed stretches himself too thin here lyrically, melodically, and production-wise means it doesn’t sound like the smash hit he and Benny Blanco wanted it to be. One last thing: swiping from “Cheap Thrills” and “No Scrubs” at the same time is hilariously contradictory.
[5]

Scott Mildenhall: Sheeran generally survives his own lyricism here by not overstretching it, but still: the hedging is feeble. “Although my heart is falling too” followed by “I’m in love with your body” is laughable. It’s almost as if he wants this song to be a palpably physical thing, but can’t quite bring himself to do it. That’s wise, because it’s about as vibrant as porridge, but he should still be more careful where he treads — the levelling of “does” to “do” is best written off as being for the sake of a rhyme rather than any performative reason (partly because it makes him sound daft). It all bobs around affably though, so there’s something to be thankful for.
[6]

Edward Okulicz: Knowing this was intended for Rihanna, I played it back to back with her “Te Amo” and have concluded that this is exactly 50 per cent of the way to being a jam.
[6]

Olivia Rafferty: It’s really interesting to contemplate how this song was originally destined for Rihanna, because I bet the production wouldn’t be as sparse as it is for Sheeran here. But this is what makes the song really charming, it’s dancehall through a music box. This reductiveness also leaks into the lyrics: short, sweet lines that effortlessly rhyme and almost seem like they end too soon. This song will deceive you with its simplicity, then determinedly burrow it’s way into your head.
[8]

Will Adams: The funny thing about this and “Cheap Thrills” — songs seemingly intended for Rihanna — is that they sound like nothing Rihanna would do. The plucky synths evoke a vague tropicalia, sure, but Anti was exciting, daring, and never as concerned with radio ubiquity as “Shape of You” is. Like Sia’s song, the problem is that giving the song to its writer doesn’t fit at all. Ed Sheeran didn’t work as a smooth bar pick-up, and he sure as hell doesn’t work when singing, “my bedsheets smell like you.”
[3]

Katherine St Asaph: Ever want to hear about sex from a guy who thinks it’s a mark of distinction to pick girls up at a bar? Fancy hearing Ed Sheeran’s take on “Work”? If so, you baffle me entirely.
[3]

Reader average: [3] (8 votes)

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8 Responses to “Ed Sheeran – Shape of You”

  1. this header image i’m screaming

  2. #1 song in America!

  3. wow

  4. I expected this rating, but I’m glad there are two more writers beside me that enjoyed this song because the Ed Sheeran fanclub is a very lonely one in The Singles Jukebox

  5. Katherine nailed this one tbh.

  6. I really love when one or two of our number enjoy something the rest of us are lukewarm (or worse) about.

  7. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMUfg75kZwk

    Song redeemed p. much, and I wish I’d talked about this b/c this is really much more Afrobeats than “Work” (not that anyone in American gen-pop is probably going to know that)

  8. Removing Ed Sheeran is a great way to improve Ed Sheeran songs.