Ed Sheeran Reveals JAY-Z Turned Down a Guest Verse on 'Shape of You'

One of two lead singles off the musician's album Divide, the song went on to win a Grammy for best pop solo performance and spent 12 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 list

Ed Sheeran visits SiriusXM; Jay-Z and Rich Paul pose during the 65th GRAMMY Awards
Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images; Johnny Nunez/Getty Images

"Shape of You" almost took on another shape.

In Ed Sheeran's cover story interview for the March issue of Rolling Stone, the 32-year-old singer and songwriter revealed that his massive 2017 hit almost featured a special guest — JAY-Z.

"We were in touch," Sheeran told the magazine. "I sent him the song, and he said, 'I don't think the song needs a rap verse.' "

Sheeran added, "He was probably right. He's got a very, very good ear. He usually gets things right. It was a very natural, respectful pass."

One of two lead singles off Sheeran's third studio album Divide (the other was "Castle on the Hill"), "Shape of You" went on to win a Grammy for best pop solo performance and spent 12 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 list.

Ed Sheeran Rolling Stone
Ed Sheeran. Liz Collins

The song, which is an ode to the musician's wife Cherry Seaborn, also took on another configuration as the focus of a plagiarism lawsuit. Last April, the "Photograph" singer walked away with a win in the legal dispute in which he was accused of stealing the melody of the song.

A judge in London's High Court ruled that Sheeran "neither deliberately nor subconsciously copied" the 2015 Sami Switch song "Oh Why" while writing his track, according to the BBC.

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Sheeran addressed the win in a video statement shared on Instagram, in which he said he was "obviously happy with the result," but warned of the ripple effects the case could have on the songwriting industry.

"I feel like claims like this are way too common now, and have become a culture where a claim is made with the idea that a settlement will be cheaper than taking it to court, even if there's no base for a claim," he said. "It's really damaging to the songwriting industry. There's only so many notes and very few chords used in pop music. Coincidence is bound to happen if 60,000 songs are being released every day on Spotify."

Ed Sheeran Rolling Stone
Ed Sheeran. Liz Collins

Sheeran was in fact right. In September, he was hit with another copyright infringement case and stands accused of lifting elements from Marvin Gaye's 1973 classic "Let's Get It On" to write his own 2014 hit, "Thinking Out Loud."

At the time, Manhattan Federal Judge Louis Stanton said that a jury trial would be needed to resolve the issue, according to Billboard.

"There is no bright-line rule that the combination of two unprotectable elements is insufficiently numerous to constitute an original work," the judge wrote. "A work may be copyrightable even though it is entirely a compilation of unprotectable elements."

A trial date in a Manhattan court is still pending.

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