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It’s Not a “Love Song” Just Because The Word “Love” Is In It

I’m looking at you, Ed Sheeran!

A few weeks ago my wife and I were driving home and ‘Shape of You’ came on the radio (because it’s inescapable).

I’d been thinking about the song for a little while but I finally went on a bit of a rant about how awful it is that we just accept the objectification of women’s bodies in music, and think it’s romantic.

Then I said these words to my wife:

And you want a daughter?? Why, so you can talk to her about her getting raped?”

And, you know, I wasn’t entirely kidding. There’s so much garbage music that treats women like props, always there to satisfy men’s desires. Their appearance matters more than who they are or what they’ve done. And it’s not just music. There’s also TV, movies, the U.S. Congress, and more.

Leave Ed Sheeran Alone!

Before I dive into my screed, let me preface this by saying that in no way is Ed Sheeran the biggest offender when it comes to objectifying women in song lyrics. I just think he gets a bit of a pass because he’s written some sweet songs and justlookatthatcutelittleredheadedfaceofhis! And this particular song is likely not intended to be a romantic song, but the lines can get blurred when the listener is an impressionable girl/tween/teen, and that’s been his hallmark sound for years.

Let’s Look at the Lyrics

The song starts out by saying that the club isn’t a great place to find love, so he and his friends go to the bar instead (much better) to do shots.

A woman comes over to him, because of course she would. I mean, they’re doing shots and slurring their words. What more could a woman want?

They start talking, then they time travel to the 1980s and find a jukebox (a JUKEBOX?) and put on some Van Morrison.

The club isn’t the best place to find a lover
So the bar is where I go
Me and my friends at the table doing shots
Drinking fast and then we talk slow
Come over and start up a conversation with just me
And trust me I’ll give it a chance now
Take my hand, stop, put Van the Man on the jukebox
And then we start to dance, and now I’m singing like

So far, this isn’t anything too terrible. There’s still hope for Ed. I mean, they could really hit it off and start dating. They could fall in love with each other, as human beings, and maybe get engaged or married!

Ha! Yeah, right. Instead he’s already decided that he wants this girl’s love. Because he’s known her for all of 7 minutes. He doesn’t want her love, he wants her body. And to even use this word misleads listeners into thinking he’s sweeter (in this song) than he really is.

And he somehow knows that her love has been customized precisely for his jukebox-playing drunk ass. Good thing he and his friends left the club, or else he never would have found the woman whose love was made just for him!

Apparently she wants his white-guy-dancing shit-faced body on her, dancing to Van Morrison. Let’s hope he can follow her lead, because it doesn’t sound like he’s in any position to carry this thing.

Girl, you know I want your love
Your love was handmade for somebody like me
Come on now, follow my lead
I may be crazy, don’t mind me
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

So far, the song still isn’t SO bad. So he meets someone at a bar and he gets all down and dirty to some “Van the Man”. It happens all the time! People are attracted to each other. Surely now we’ll get a little romance right?

I mean, it’s Ed Sheeran, singer of Thinking Out Loud:

Oh me I fall in love with you every single day
And I just wanna tell you I am

So honey now
Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars

and also Photograph (sung in falsetto so you KNOW it’s sweet and romantic):

So you can keep me
Inside the pocket of your ripped jeans
Holding me closer ’til our eyes meet
You won’t ever be alone, wait for me to come home

Back to the Dancefloor!

Surely, the sweetness and romance are coming now. They’re dancing and he’s going to extol her every virtue and declare his never-ending adoration. Right? Emphasis mine.

I’m in love with the shape of you
We push and pull like a magnet do
Although my heart is falling too
I’m in love with your body
And last night you were in my room
And now my bedsheets smell like you
Every day discovering something brand new
I’m in love with your body
Oh — I — oh — I — oh — I — oh — I
I’m in love with your body
Oh — I — oh — I — oh — I — oh — I
I’m in love with your body
Oh — I — oh — I — oh — I — oh — I
I’m in love with your body
Every day discovering something brand new
I’m in love with the shape of you

Oh. Hmmm. Over half of the lines that are actual words (and not that caterwauling Oh — I — oh — I — oh — I — oh — I) express how he is IN LOVE WITH her body/the shape of her.

And this is the chorus, that’s repeated 2 and a half times.

He doesn’t just love her body (which would still not be where I’d expected a Sheeran song to immediately go). He’s in love with it. In love with. This rubs me the wrong way.

Most people would say that they’re in love with a person. The entirety of a human being, not just the outer shell. How about if we try it like this:

I love your body.

That sounds SORTA sweet, I guess. With the right emphasis it can become:

I love YOUR body

Oh there we go. That’s some Ed Sheeran shit right there! He loves HER body, because it belongs to her. No matter what it looks like, he loves it because of who’s inside of it. That’s true love. Looking past all of the…oh, wait…

One week in we let the story begin
We’re going out on our first date
You and me are thrifty, so go all you can eat
Fill up your bag and I fill up a plate
We talk for hours and hours about the sweet and the sour
And how your family is doing okay
Leave and get in a taxi, then kiss in the backseat
Tell the driver make the radio play, and I’m singing like

So a week into this thing they go on their first date. If the first night didn’t count as a date, did they really not see each other for a whole week? He’s in love with her body! How could he go a whole week?!

Ok fine.

So they’re frugal and decide to go to a buffet, where she fills her purse with food. That’s, uhhhh, endearing.

Then…they talk for hours upon hours, about the good and the bad and her family. Awww…here’s sweet and romantic Ed. He cares about her as a person, and wants to know about her family! They leave in a taxi and make out in the backseat, because this IS the honeymoon period and sexual desire is high!

Now What? Happily Ever After?

We then get the same shit about taking her lead, putting his body on her, he’s in love with her body, bedsheets, Oh — I — oh — I — oh — I — oh — I…

And then this poetry:

Come on, be my baby, come on
Come on, be my baby, come on
Come on, be my baby, come on
Come on, be my baby, come on
Come on, be my baby, come on
Come on, be my baby, come on
Come on, be my baby, come on
Come on, be my baby, come on

Holy shit! He wants her to be his BABY! True love does exist (swooooon)!

But Now…Something Romantic, Right?

He’s in love with the shape of her…magnets…bedsheets…baby come on, baby come on and the grand finale

I’m in love with the shape of you

Who Cares, It’s a Silly Pop Song!

Sure, that’s one way to look at it. And of course Ed Sheeran has every right to try a different type of music. My gripe is that if the lyrics were from a rap song (or a lesser-known pop/rock artist), we’d be judging them differently than we are coming from this red-headed white boy nice guy.

And the fact remains that because this song is so ubiquitous we have to consider that children (girls AND boys) are probably hearing it all the time, especially while driving in the car where they’re a captive listener.

Now imagine you’re a young, impressionable girl and you keep hearing those words over and over and over again. He’s in love with her body and the shape of her. This kid might hear the song an average of once a day, even.

Is anyone telling that child once a day that their worth has nothing to do with whether a man is in love with her body?

Do we really think that’s not going to sink into her mind, on some level, and make her feel like she has to look a certain way? Or that her value as a person is based on her appearance?

And then boys are taught that it’s OK to treat women like that, and focus so much on their bodies. Heck, if the song-version of Ed Sheeran is succeeding, why wouldn’t they do the same thing?

The song was originally written for Rihanna. At least if she’d sung the lyrics it would have flipped the stereotype on its head. Not great, but at least better than reinforcing the same old bullshit about women’s bodies.

An Example of an Actual Romantic Song

It just so happens that this song is also getting a lot of radio play, and it stands in perfect contrast with the garbage that is “Shape of You”.

The man in this song sees the woman as an actual person, and not just some piece of ass. I highlighted some lyrics that demonstrate this, and that are actually romantic.

If I had a 9-year-old daughter (for example) and she heard this song, I feel like she’d walk away with the idea that true and everlasting love exists, to the point where this guy wants to be with the woman even after they’re dead. Like a lifetime with her isn’t even enough. Damn, that’s love.

Lest I be accused of padding my word count with song lyrics, this one is an image, which actually enables me to bring attention to some of the words.

Heck, this could be read as a poem and retain its beauty. Can you imagine “Shape of You” as a poem. Ugh.

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