Something I read: The Shape of You

Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” has been on the Hot 100 since it was released on January 6th of last year and topped Billboard’s year-end singles chart—but I confess I’d had no idea who was behind it until yesterday when I was watching this New York Times feature about making the song. The short video is a fascinating look at how some, clearly, very talented musicians produced one of the most distinct (and yes, derivative) songs of the year. “The song has drawn more than 2.8 billion views on YouTube and is also the most-played track ever on Spotify, with more than 1.5 billion streams,” notes the article.

I was struck by comment, “The best songs that I’ve ever written, I don’t really remember writing,” Mr. Sheeran said. “They take like 20 minutes and then they’re just done. And then you move on to the next thing.”

When I used to teach freshman writing classes and would meet with students to discuss their essay drafts, I’d often find that the best line of the essay was the third one down. They’d lead with strained introductory sentences in which so much time had been put, and then they’d hit their stride a few lines in. Oftentimes, they’d hardly noticed writing their strongest thesis.

I made me think: when something seems hard to do, you just have to start. Eventually you’ll forget you’re trying and perhaps something wonderful will come out of it. Maybe not a hit song, but…

In any case, it’s a really great behind-the-scenes video if you haven’t seen it. Songwriter Johnny McDaid also explains that the phrase “the shape of you,” is common in Northern Ireland, where he’s from: “‘whatever you are, whatever it is. I’m in love with you.’ You know, it’s the shape of who you are figuratively.”

P.S. Terry Gross

[Photo Getty Images]

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