• Ryan Hope

'Shivers' by Ed Sheeran: A Shallow Excuse for Modern Singer-Songwriter Music


Unlike Bad Habits, Shivers has me longing for Ed Sheeran to return to his usual form. Instead, the track sees the ‘once heartbroken now married’ troubadour swoon over a newly-found passionate flame. It’s rather innocent sounding dance production wraps up a surprisingly lustful, yet notably shallow message with all the typical trappings such as clap tracks and rattling hi-hats.

Immediately, a notably low-quality and overblown pizzicato string section drenched in reverb blasts in; so passionlessly played as if it was an eight year old was practicing their scales. It sounds awfully “MIDI”, leaving me yearning for Ed to perhaps get his classically-trained brother to jump-in to help with the orchestral sounds he so often integrates into his songs. This isn’t a foreign concept for Ed either, as the Sheeran brothers have collaborated in a similar manner on the previous track Perfect to great effect.

There’s no love for the art of song-craft here. It feels so painfully manufactured and cold, a far cry from Sheeran’s roots as a soulful (if sometimes cheesy) guitar-focused balladeer penning era defining classics such as The A Team and Bloodstream. And it’s not as if I’m expecting Sheeran to stay in his lane, his gradual movement away from hip-hop infused acoustic to generic radio hits was explored somewhat in his previous mainline album, Divide, with moderate success. At least the songs from that record still paid homage to his earlier work while still venturing out artistically.

Throughout my countless listens to the track, a nagging question would not cease to present itself: “haven’t we been here before?”. Tracks from Sheeran’s catalogue, for example Shape of You, fulfil almost exactly the same lyrical end-goal and yet a significant jump production quality is apparent - not to mention having actually listenable vocals compared to Shivers.

Despite all these shortcomings, the song - admittedly - is catchy as hell. Like really. I found myself on numerous occasions mindlessly humming the chorus throughout the day, then shamefully asking myself, “Why?”. Sheeran cements himself as a master of the modern pop hook on this track, with the blaring acoustic guitar hits, a club-like clap beat and an incredibly sticky melody to match. Now being a credited song writer of q boy-band BTS, it’s no wonder to see the stylistic approach to writing he used there trickle down into his own output.

I desperately wanted to enjoy this single, especially after the mediocre mess that was the No. 6 Collaborations Project, however Shivers signposts a shift in Sheeran’s work that has been a longtime coming. The cracks were always there, just now they’re ever more apparent. Over-produced and tacky, Ed Sheeran’s latest LP is shaping up to be another radio-topping collection of shallow excuses for modern singer-songwriter music.