Skip to main content

Chart Beat Podcast: The Songwriting Secrets of Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’

Hit Songs Deconstructed's Yael & Dave Penn break down the 12-week Hot 100 No. 1's composition. Plus, Harry Styles' debut & a flashback to 1990.

Welcome to the Billboard Chart Beat Podcast, where each week co-hosts Gary Trust and Trevor Anderson, from the Billboard charts department, discuss why what’s on the charts … is on the charts.

This week, Hit Songs Deconstructed co-founders Yael and Dave Penn return, once again, to the podcast, this time to share insider insights on the compositional characteristics that have helped make Ed Sheeran‘s “Shape of You” a No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hit for 12 weeks and counting.

A significant reason for the appeal, and chart success, of “Shape”? It sports similarities to other hits while still standing out. “It’s the effective blend of the familiar and the unique that helps a song connect with a wide audience,” Dave says. “That truly is the key.”

Additionally, by the end of “Shape,” its multiple hooks combine into a catchy crescendo, its biggest draws, thus, inviting repeated plays. “Think of the outro as the grand finale of a fireworks show,” Dave says. “All the stops are being pulled.” The song’s main melody mixes with other portions (“into one over-the-top section”), much like a hit TV or movie plot’s multiple storylines eventually intertwine.

“Leaving the listener on that excited high, wanting more,” Dave muses. “That’s what it’s all about.”

Gary and Trevor also discuss Harry Styles‘ No. 4 launch on the Hot 100 with his debut solo single “Sign of the Times” and, following Zayn‘s No. 1 arrival last year with “Pillowtalk,” where One Direction stands among boy bands, and groups in general, in terms of solo members’ success. (Notably, 1D has already spun off more members with Hot 100 top 10s as soloists than *NSYNC and Backstreet Boys combined.)


Plus, we rewind to this week in 1990, when “Nothing Compares 2 U” crowned the Hot 100, both for its performer, Sinead O’Connor, and its writer, Prince. A year after his passing, the latter legend’s versatility remains astounding. Says Trevor, “He might’ve had a massive career writing for other artists alone.”

Enjoy the entire latest Chart Beat Podcast and check back for more upcoming episodes with artists, label executives, radio programmers and personalities, songwriters, producers and more. And, to receive every episode automatically in your inbox, subscribe to (and rate) the Billboard Chart Beat Podcast on iTunes!