Singer Ed Sheeran is trying to prove that he did not steal his 2017 hit single, “Shape Of You,” from another artist.
Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue have claimed that his song lifts “particular lines and phrases” from their 2015 song “Oh Why.” Chokri claims that he actually sent “Oh Why” to Sheeran in the hopes of a collaboration.
Ed Sheeran Insists That He Did Not Copy Portions Of His Song From Other Artists
The particular point of contested plagiarism is from the 2015 single “Oh Why” and its “Oh I, oh I, oh I” hook. In his defense, Sheeran explained how commonplace the melody is in pop music by singing parts of Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” and Blackstreet’s “No Diggity.”
“If you put them all in the same key, they’ll sound the same,” he explained in his testimony, which was reported by the BBC. The “Bad Habits” singer denied ever having heard the song “Oh Why” and rejected the idea that friends might have played it for him when he wrote “Shape of You” in October 2016.
Although the song became the best-selling single of 2017 and the most-played song of all time on Spotify, Sheeran and his team have not received an estimated £20m in royalties, which has been frozen ever since the pair claimed copyright infringement in 2018.
Ed Sheeran’s Voice Memos Are Played For The Court
Lawyers played voice memos from the “Shivers” singer’s recording sessions for the court, including a recording where Sheeran admits they should change the “Oh I” melody because it was “a bit close to the bone.” However, Sheeran revealed that he wanted to change it because it sounded too similar to yet another song.
“We thought it was a bit too close to a song called No Diggity by Blackstreet,” Sheeran explained. “I said that… we should change it.”
When asked if the melody of “Shape Of You” was similar to “Oh Why,” he replied, “Fundamentally, yes. They are based around the minor pentatonic scale [and] they both have vowels in them.”
Lawyers also accused Sheeran of being an “obsessive music squirrel” who “voraciously” consumed music, and would therefore be aware of the hit song “Oh Why.” However, Sheeran denied every hearing the song before.
“I’m a music fan, I like music, I listen to music,” Sheeran admitted before saying that he had “disappeared for the whole year” in 2016 and was “not plugged in” to the U.K. music scene to be aware of the song’s popularity.
Unreleased Ed Sheeran Song Is Played For The Courtroom
While playing through recordings, a brief clip of an unreleased song was played before the court by accident.
“That’s a song I wrote last January,” Sheeran said. “How did you get that? I want to know how you got that.” It was later explained that the song had been retrieved from Steve Mac’s personal laptop and the wrong file had been accessed.
Although “Shape Of You” became a big hit for the “Perfect” singer, Sheeran admitted that he originally wrote the song for someone like Little Mix or Rihanna and didn’t think that it belonged on his album “Divide.”
“I thought this song clashed with ‘Castle On The Hill,’” Sheeran said, naming another popular track off the album. “I didn’t want to put it out and I was subsequently proven wrong.”
Ed Sheeran Explains That The ‘Shape Of You’ Hook Was A Collaborative Effort
While giving his testimony, Sheeran explained that the song’s hook was a collaborative effort between co-writers Steve Mac and Johnny McDaid.
“It was all of us three bouncing back and forth in a circle,” Sheeran explained. “That was how it originated.”
When Mr. Sutcliffe said that “three people could not create the germ of the melody,” Sheeran asked, “Why can’t three people create a melody?”
Mr. Sutcliffe then pointed out that Sheeran had changed the original version of the song to remove parts that were similar to TLC’s “No Scrubs” and Bill Withers’ “Grandma’s Hands.” TLC later got songwriting credit for the hit.
Mr. Sutcliffe accused him of lifting other melodies for his songs, saying, “Your approach is to take it, change it, and make lots of money, isn’t it?”
Sheeran denied the accusation and claimed that a “musicologist went over the song and found similarities and we changed the similarities.”