Groove Staff Weighs In On “Shape of You”

by Lily Lyons

Ed Sheeran’s “Shape Of You” spent 12 weeks on top of the hot 100. Granted it did get dethroned one week, but then it came back up again, only to finally take the #2 spot to Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble” this week. If we’re being honest we were all probably a little relieved when its reign ended just because it got to be overplayed. The song had some impressive staying power. But just because the radio is all over a track doesn’t necessarily mean that track is good or will be come a classic. All of us at the Berklee Groove have some definite love-hate opinions about “Shape Of You” and we thought we’d share them with you here in honor of the end of the song’s hot 100 run.

Dom Jones: HATED IT! *two snaps* But seriously, this song was annoying af and it didn’t help that media outlets played it out. NO FREAKING WAY Kendrick should have debuted at #2 with this song above it (though I didn’t think “Humble” was Kendrick’s best, but I digress). The SOLE THING that saved this song in my book was a cover of it by Berklee group FATES that brought some much needed musical salvation to the tune. Otherwise, it’d be in the same place where I throw my used tissue and dark chocolate candy wrappers, fam. Oh, wait. Let me not just say I hated it and leave. Here’s why: so we all know this song was originally meant for Rihanna, but I guess she passed. IT CLEARLY HAS A CARIBBEAN SOUND. Can non-caribbean people sing the music of the culture? Sure, I guess, but this just sounds super disingenuous. I’m not too keen on what Drake’s been doing of late, either, so it isn’t a race thing – it’s a cultural competence thing. Every time I hear this song, I’m just like, “Fam… please, stop.” But he keeps singing… Lol.

Lily Lyons: “Shape Of You” feels like a careful constellation of what’s trending in pop. It’s got the marimba-like sound that we heard from Maroon 5 and Kendrick Lamar’s “Don’t Wanna Know.”  The playful melodic rhythms throughout it could easily have been inspired by The Weeknd’s “Starboy” or Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop The Feeling.” Its beat is probably indebted to Rihanna’s “Anti.” As if that weren’t enough, Sheeran’s lyrical attention to detail reminds me of just about everything by the Chainsmokers. All these elements added together are inarguably catchy, and the “taxi/backseat” rhyme he puts in the second verse has the songwriting nerd in me excited. But I question whether “Shape Of You” adds up to more than the sum of its parts. Sheeran has written a song that encapsulates the moment but doesn’t really take risks or try anything new. I want to hear something more hot-blooded and fresh from himbecause I’ve seen him be capable of that kind of writing before. 

Ayanna Jacobs-El: Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” is an undeniable pop anthem. This dancehall and tropical house infused pop tune features catchy lyrics and a danceable marimba fueled beat. Unlike many of Sheeran’s previous songs, “Shape of You” isn’t lyrically thought provoking or distinctive in any way. This is the main reason why I wasn’t very intrigued by this song. In a world where pretty much every pop song on the radio has to do with a relationship or a woman’s body, I am pretty much uninterested when I hear a song that covers such common ground. I will not deny that the production of this song is top notch and in line with the current trend of the dancehall-pop sound. However, I would have been much more into this track if it pushed the lyrical boundaries of typical pop music like Ed Sheeran did with “The A Team” in 2011.