I should first say that I over-think everything. I could write an entire novel about my musings on a loaf of brown bread. That said, music is a beautiful thing. It can give a million different messages to a million different people. Sometimes, songwriters try to point us in a certain direction. They name the song, and they give interviews on what inspired it, and what they were trying to express. But even then, we can choose to listen to the song and make our own interpretation.
Take the song ♫ One night ♫ by Ed Sheeran. It seems pretty straightforward, no? A song about a girl he slept with once … right? In fact, the only potentially confusing part is the chorus:
♫ Tell her that I love her ♫
♫ Tell her that I need her ♫
♫ Tell her that she’s more than a one-night stand ♫
♫ Tell her that she turns my cheeks the colour of my hair ♫
♫ All I wanna do is be near ♫
♫ Tell her that I love her more than anyone else ♫
♫ If you don’t, I’ll tell her myself ♫
It suggests that the boy has a crush on his friend’s one-night-girl. Which is odd because the verses describe his time with the girl in detail. What they ate, where they hung out, how the played. And she seems to know the exact kind of girl that he likes. Maybe she’s a one-night-at-a-time girl.
Maybe he sees her every night he’s in her town, which explains why she knows so much about him. Or maybe she’s a fan that has stalked him online. Or … it could just be a generic dedication to all one-night-stands that don’t hear these words from their bed-mates … which is why he offers to ‘tell her myself.’
♫ Oh well, she’s a local girl ♫
♫ No make-up ♫
♫ Cause she knows me well ♫
♫ Hair tied up in elastic band ♫
♫ With a kiss on the cheek ♫
♫ For her one-night man ♫
This is one of my favourite Ed Sheeran songs. The first few seconds hook my attention because they sound quite unlike any song I’ve heard. When I checked the timer, I noticed the riff is only a second long, but the beat break made it sound like four. There’s guitar there, but there’s also a bouncy riff that makes me think of a DJ scratching a vinyl record.
Then the vocals start, and oh glory it’s British! Or Irish. Or Yorkshire-ish. Well, it’s a UK accent, and I am sucker for UK accents. All 169 versions of it. Except maybe the Cockney one, which I enjoy listening to in the delicious-foreign-language kind of way. Meaning I like the sound of it, but have no clue what they’re saying, or how it could possibly be English.
This song is romantic to me. Not in the sense that it’s sexy. More in the exotic adventure kind of way. I read somewhere that Ed spent the early part of his career couch surfing as he played gigs all over the country and selling CDs out of his backpack. (Okay it said sofa surfing. Hurray for British English.) So I like to think it’s about a girl he met one night after a show. He might not even remember her name. Or maybe it’s a composite song about all the pretty girls who gave him their sofas before he was famous.
I like to think that girl is still in her home town, and that sometimes she listens to this song and smiles. Or maybe they all sit on their sofas, the sofas where he spent the night, and wonder if the song is about them. Though … technically, he wasn’t actually on the sofa, since in his words,
♫ Are you taking me back tonight? ♫
♫ Tell me if that’s alright ♫
♫ I don’t wanna be here ♫
♫ I’m not the sofa type ♫
I suppose that’s why I like the song so much. I’ve been a one-night girl, and I generally feel quite sad when the boy doesn’t call me the next day. Or when he rushes me out of his house in the morning. After all, one-night-stand or not, I’m still a girl that wants to be cherished, and after sharing my body with a man, I’d like to feel like it meant something. It doesn’t have to be happily ever after, but I like to feel like more than an organic urinal he jacked off into. In the song, Ed seems to have a strange affection for this girl he spent one night with.
♫ She’s like the fast food ♫
♫ I’ll regret it after ♫
♫ And I needed money ♫
♫ But I’m too shy to ask her ♫
♫ So she buys me chips and cheese ♫
♫ And I tell her that I love her ♫
♫ And she’s all I need ♫
Of course these are largely lies. You don’t fall for a girl after spending a night in her bed, even if you’re broke and she buys you chips funga. Technically, he got a double chips funga (with cheese) but hey. Plus, everything sounds pretty in British – even lies. And I suppose it’s possible he was genuinely touched. I mean here was a boy trying to be a star, too broke to pay for a hotel, too proud to admit it to a virtual stranger.
Well, he says he’s too shy. In reality, how do you go telling someone you just met that you can’t even afford a pack of fries? The human race is weird that way. You can meet a girl or boy and end up in their bed five minutes later, which in some ways is the ultimate form of trust. I mean come on. They could be serial murderers. They could choke you in your sleep. They could give you AIDS.
But then after that show of absolute trust, you can’t turn around and tell them you have 50 bob in your pocket and no idea how to get home. I’m guessing this is how Ed feels. And the girl reads his mind and gives him dinner, a bed, and muse. I’d be fond of that girl too.
Another thing I like about the song is it makes him seem shy and vulnerable, not the suave lady-killer that all rock stars seem to be. I suppose he was – at least at the time – since Loose Change was released in 2010 when he was still – technically – a teenager. He left home at 16 to be a star, which for him meant ‘all day in the studio, all night playing gigs, selling CDs of his songs out of his backpack to put cash in his pocket to get to the next gig.’
I realise I’m romanticising the entire thing. This is a song about one-night-sex where the guy basically admits being a langa [♫ I’m not the sofa type ♫]. And there’s nothing beautiful about wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am, even if the boy writes a song about it after. In fact, it’s a tad worse that he wrote a song about it, since this is basically the musical version of the #AfterSexSelfie. Which really should look more like this, no?
He’s basically bragging to his – friends – and the world – about the girl he banged one night. Hardly something for the girl to be pleased about. I mean, if this was a hip-hop song, the … descriptive terms … would be a lot less vulgar, like…
♫ I don’t really dance so I’ll just watch you ♫
vs … oh … I don’t know …
♫ shake that ass, drop that booty blah blah blah ♫
♫ she turns my cheeks the colour of my hair ♫
♫ I hit that thing like a *insert typically descriptive hip-hop phrase*♫
In case you hadn’t noticed, that ginger hair line is my favourite part of the song. I’d like to think he puts it that way because he’s so sweet, but maybe that’s just him being British. After all, a boy with an entire documentary dedicated to his tattoos is more likely to be masochist than cuddly and innocent. Either way, that’s probably why I like the song so much. Instead of painting her as some crazed groupie, he makes her sound like a person he genuinely enjoyed being with.
Of course, in the end, this is pure conjecture and writer’s license. For all I know, 16-year-old Ed was sitting in his flat, strumming his guitar, writing about this girl he’d never met. He makes it sound awfully pretty though. Sigh. I suppose this is why musicians are bad news, yes? Especially the ones with pretty hair and British accents.
♫ One night ♫ Ed Sheeran ♫