“I’m in love
with the shape of you;
We push and pull
like a magnet do.”
Written with the Barbados-babe Rihanna in mind, Ed Sheeran’s recent attempt at a tropical-house club hit sees him swap his busker persona for a raunchy Casanova. The track was released as a double A-side with ‘Castle On A Hill’ and is currently getting white-boy hips rolling everywhere.
It’s time to tear these lyrics apart. By singing “We push and pull like a magnet do”, Sheeran utilises a classic romantic trope: he compares his attraction to the addressed girl with the forces of attraction between magnets. I suppose opposites attract. Since unlike poles are naturally brought together, he is drawn to the girl because of their differences. The alliterative /p/ of both words unites the two contrasting motions, like the love of the complementary couple bringing them together.
Simplifying and shallow, Sheeran solely seeks sex
However, the pushing and pulling could refer to the actions of sex and dancing that the music evokes, given that magnets attract and repel in a back-and-forth manner. This fluctuation of pushing and pulling can represent the conflict and struggle associated with many difficulties in relationships. From arguing but still being compelled by feelings of love, to being enamoured but playing ‘hard to get’, this seesaw of romance is clearly insinuated by the songwriter. Now those basics are out of the way, it’s time to get too deep…
Interestingly, Sheeran employs an empirical perspective to help him woo at the bar. He appeals to the natural force of magnetism in order to portray his love as another natural force that cannot be fought against. Whilst this gives power to his emotion, the metaphor and the objective realm in which it operates ultimately objectify his lover. They both are reduced to pieces of metal under the sway of physics. In particular, by declaring that he is “in love” with her “shape”, Sheeran explicitly refers to her physical body as the reason for his desire. He neglects attention to emotion and personality which reside in a subjective realm, instead focusing on the observed facts of the senses. Simplifying and shallow, Sheeran solely seeks sex.
It seems that Ed Sheeran is like the magnet of a scrapyard crane. Lumbering and pungent, Sheeran swings in on his object, picks it up with his magnetic compulsion and eventually wishes to drop it into the pile of junk with the rest of his ‘damaged goods’. Pulled in by her “shape”, Ed intends to reform and manipulate the object, similar to how scrapyards compress and reshape malleable metals. But, now as Ed has shaved his beard and become a clean commercial kingpin, perhaps a sexy Sheeran is what fans will continue to hear.
Dominating the charts right now, ‘Shape Of You’ reminds us of two lessons integral to our physics education: how magnets work and how to pull in the club.