Maha-Alaya

This post was written for the occasion of Mahalaya for Ink Elan

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Deconstructing Sheeran!

There is always that song which is stuck in your head! Ed Sheeran’s latest phenomenon: Shape of You is one such track. I have listened to this song so many times that I form new critical viewpoints every time I hear it again! Vomiting my rather ‘uncanny’ thoughts on paper can be seen as a way to get rid of them which has been troubling me for quite a long time to get out, a dirty place my mind must be!

In accordance with the en vogue way, the songs present themselves in a tripartite manner: the audio, the lyric video and the video. In this case, these versions add to the diverse interpretations.

The song in itself is very catchy with its peppy tune, sharp beats and free-flowing lyrics. Apart from that, if anyone listens closely, Shape of You has much more on offer.

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

Initially, it seems like any other boy’s pursuit to ‘find love’ and dance ‘at the bar’ as ‘the club’ clearly isn’t the best place. The narrator here is recounting the events of his past and moves on to talk about a song which he sang to his partner while dancing in a bar. So, it’s a song within a song!

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

The first part of the song within a song is that of a boy who directly addresses the girl and carries his flirtatious attitude forward with a lot of subtlety by accepting his weirdness.

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

The wilful coyness of the boy is shattered by the girl as she doesn’t pay much heed to the foreplay and almost orders the boy to keep dancing, rather sensuously, and insists on following ‘her lead’!

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

Moving on to the refrain, the boy finally confesses that he is in love with the ‘Shape of You(her)’ and that he is in ‘love with your(her) body’. This is where it interests me the most, but more on this later! In spite of stating that they ‘Push and pull like a Magnet’ and ‘Although my (his) heart is falling to’ reaffirms the fact their relation is one of mutual participation and not platonic in any sense of the term as they have their own viewpoints and do disagree with each other on certain aspects. It also suggests their intimate physical relation by hinting at the sexual movements with the image of the pushing and pulling magnets.

And last night you were in my room
And now my bedsheets smell like you

The physical image is extended in the very next line to almost a metaphysical sense where the boy states ‘last night you were in my room /And now my bed sheets smell like you /Everyday discovering something brand new’. 

These lines heighten the intimacy, quite similar to that of Andrew Marvell’s declaration where he requests his coy mistress to ‘roll all our (their) strength and all our sweetness up into one ball’ indicating an organic whole.

Every day discovering something brand new

I’m in love with your body

Every day they discover something new which proves that there is no monotony in their relationship, they don’t need to roam the world in order learn something and can easily do that in each other’s company! This statement alludes to the poetry of Donne where he counters the Elizabethan spirit of discoveries by stating that ‘

And makes one little room an everywhere. /Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone, /Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown, /Let us possess one world, each hath one and is one.’

Faiz Ahmed Faiz also shows similar sentiments in his famous Urdu Shayari:

‘aur kyā dekhne ko baaqī hai /aap se dil lagā ke dekh liyā’(what else is there now for me to view
I have experienced being in love with you)

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

 The repeated Oh-I’s in the next few lines can be seen as a reaffirmation of his admiration for the girl, or, can also indicate the moaning sounds made during sexual activity.

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

The song progresses as the narrator proceeds in recounting the phases of their relationship. The ‘story’ apparently begins after a week when they set on their first date. It interesting to note that, the first significant date takes places only after the relationship has been consummated, so is the body just a key to the mind/soul?

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

The deep bond that they now share is vividly shown through the lyrics here as they take interest in each others’ families! As the driver plays the radio, a hyper reality is projected as the refrain appears through the radio itself indicating a transcendental approach.

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

Once again ‘Come on, be my baby, Come on’ is repeated many times to suggest that they are taking their relationship to greater heights. In spite of discovering something brand new every day, he is still in love with the ‘Shape of You’ shows that he is not materialistic or hedonistic in his approach.

The lyric video not only substantiates to the claim made in the song but also unlocks another viewpoint.

The refrain part is seen as text messaging indicating the active participation of both individuals.

The graphic associated with ‘Body’ changes from a James Bond style image to a basic text as the song moves on which suggests a deviation from the physical pleasures as lovers mature in due course of time.

The discovery of something brand new in the lyric video has been associated with the images of a half circle transforming into an imperfect full one representing the ‘heaven on earth’ that they have created for themselves.

 

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The most striking image in the lyric video, however, is that of the heart sign in which ‘Shape of You’ is written. This raises a question of duality in the depiction of ‘shape’: is it the shape of one’s mind/soul or just the body?

The video of the song is the actual game changer as it deconstructs the entire concept as it has been built till now from the audio and the lyric video.

The video shows a ‘boxing scenario’ where the girl is a boxer. From here on, the entire concept of physicality changes as it is not limited to the objectification and commodifications.

It is very natural for an athlete to admire another athlete so as for being inspired by him/her. The ‘Shape’ here indicates the fitness and the perfect shape the girl is in and the boy is intimidated by her perfect shape and also is trying to imitate her.

The ‘dance’ can be an indication to the moves which the boxers practise in the ring.

Their mutual admiration takes the relationship forward where they indulge in the basic pleasures of life.They push the limits together and try to stay together through thick and thin.

The last part of the video shows the boy getting beaten into shreds by a sumo wrestler…

…and just when every hope was lost, the girl suddenly intrudes from the audiences and ‘attempts’ a kung-fu kick at his opponent.

The video ends as the screen freezes where the girl is flying mid air and the sumo has just realised about the impending danger.

By doing this, a finite closure is denied which forces the audience to think! 

This song along with another hit number: ‘Galway Girl‘, holds a mirror to the vibrant city life of the United Kingdom as evident by the repeated use of the ‘shots’, ‘bar’, ’club’, ’friends’, ’jukebox’ etc.. In the hindsight another hit, ‘Castle On The Hill’ puts more focus on the country life and its uniqueness. These songs present to its listeners and viewers a myriad of experiences and feelings whilst taking ‘em on a virtual trip down the memory aisle. Moving on to the little more serious and very relevant topic that ‘Shape of You’ puts forward is, of course, the treatment of ‘the body’ or ‘the shape’.

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On hearing this for the first time I was taken aback by the audacity of the artist to use the connotation of physicality in such a light hearted manner. Had the same opinions been put forward through a groovy item number, activists wouldn’t have wasted a single second in taking to streets and blatantly scream for ‘equality’.

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Another question that I would like to raise through this platform, is that why do we see objectification with such a perverted mindset? It’s nothing but an admiration for something which constitutes a human being. If someone is in love with one’s mental faculties, sassy terms like ‘Sapiosexuality’ is used to denote the superior intellectuality of that individual, but a person is immediately branded as a ‘meat-lover’, ‘objectifier’, ‘pervert’ and what not if the admiration is based on the physical aspects. At the same time, it is also true that taking these admirations to a level of infatuation or obsession is indeed not desirable, but that applies both in the case of physicality and the mental aspects.

The physical and the mental aspects together constitute the whole human being and without any one of these, a person is simply incomplete! 

So, let’s not unnecessarily discriminate between these, as “Sometimes a Cigar is just a Cigar”!!!

Note:

Many images used in this article are taken from the Youtube videos of Ed Sheeran, the rights are of-

Written by Ed Sheeran, Steve Mac, Johnny Mcdaid • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., Universal Music Publishing Group

The other images are taken from:

https://goo.gl/2af36b

https://goo.gl/mBgg4U

https://goo.gl/544SEF

https://goo.gl/tWFxIM