First, we ought to at least add one to Ed Sheeran’s amazing tally of streams:
I chose this song to analyse because, OK, it’s a good track and I like it but, mainly, because it’s incredibly popular and I want to know why.
Is it the chord structure?
No, not because there’s anything wrong with the chords but, essentially, the same four chords just repeat over and over in the verse, pre-chorus and chorus: Bm G D A. Nothing special there at all.
Is it the arrangement?
No, again, not because there is any problem with it but it’s largely invisible – it just does the job. What I do like is the repetitive riff that sounds like it’s played by pizzicato strings but is probably a synth:
The fact that the riff (B D E F#) stays the same from the Bm to the G chord adds a little spice because the F# is dissonant on the G (making it a major seventh). This effect is echoed in the melody for the chorus.
Is it the melody?
Mmm. Yes, up to a point. Most of the melody is just playing around the notes of the underlying chords with little variation, except for a couple of places in the chorus and these really make the song.
First, the ‘Ooo I love you when you do it like that’ centres around an E note, even though the chord is a Bm and this creates a nice tension. Then on ‘when you’re close up’ we get the F# note again creating a dissonance on the G chord. Then there’s a melodic flourish as Ed goes into falsetto for ‘and when they say the party’s over…’. All in all, that’s a very catchy chorus and you just have to join in.
Is it the lyrics?
Partly, nothing particularly clever, just a great love song that is easy for people to identify with.
Is it Ed Sheeran?
Yep. That’s the magic ingredient. He’s such a likeable person and seemingly untouched by all the glamour. Good for him.