Examining Ed Sheeran’s two new singles: ‘Castle On the Hill’ and ‘Shape of You’

Jan. 22, 2017, 10:40 p.m.

Ed Sheeran is back. The famous pop expert and musician took a hiatus in 2015, after five years of continuous touring, recording and traveling internationally. After a few Tweets hinting at a third album titled “÷” (“Divide”), on Jan. 5, he dropped two songs: “Castle On the Hill” and “Shape of You.”

“Castle On the Hill” and “Shape Of You” are two very different songs, genre-wise. While the latter is one of those pop songs song that would be blasted repeatedly at dance parties and over radios, “Castle On the Hill” takes on a country air, perfect for a road trip.

“Castle On The Hill” takes place in a beautiful countryside. The introduction is a quiet, very twangy, country-like tune powered by a steady thrumming of beats. First-person lyrics like “we watched the sunset over the castle on the hill” situate us in Sheeran’s own childhood, growing up in the countryside of Framlingham, Suffolk. The titular castle is most likely inspired by Framlingham Castle, near where Sheeran grew up. The first tender verse revolves around Ed Sheeran as a 6-year-old, who “tasted the sweet perfume of the mountain grass [he] rolled down,” suggesting an idyllic scenery in tune with the country.  The quiet verses contrast with the chorus, which kicks off with a crash, the low hums and booms of drums and guitar chords increasing in intensity. When Ed Sheeran returns permanently to the present and remembers his grown-up friends who have parted ways but still remain dear to his heart, the song falls into a hush again, continuing into the final chorus and underscoring the nostalgia in Sheeran’s raw voice.

“Shape Of You,” on the other hand, is a faster-paced pop song centered on the sensation of falling in love.  While “Castle On the Hill” tells more of a story, “Shape Of You” delves into a wild bar-dance with a partner, encouraged by Sheeran’s quicker tempo. With a more prominent guitar leading the way, the repetitive lyrics “I’m in love with your body/Come on, be my baby, come on” are impossible to forget. The whole song sounds like the upcoming earworm of 2017.

Ed Sheeran has released two very different kinds of music, and “Castle On the Hill” and “Shape Of You” are both beautiful, musical works in their own way – the former a mellow, sweet ode to growing up, the latter catchy dance fun. Sheeran’s eagerly awaited album is off to a powerful start.


Contact Maimi Higuchi at maimih ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Maimi Higuchi '20 is a music staff writer for the Stanford Daily. She loves writing, reading, music, and science. A devoted long-time fan of the Harry Potter series, she hopes to one day visit the Wizarding World theme park in Los Angeles.

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