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Ed Sheeran Came Up With the Chorus for “The Shape of You” After Being Forced to Play With Legos

BERLIN, GERMANY - DECEMBER 17: (L to R) Lena Gercke, Ed Sheeran and Thore Schoelermann take a selfie during the 'The Voice of Germany' finals at Studio Berlin Adlershof on December 17, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)

A new New York Times article and accompanying video details the story of the making of Ed Sheeran‘s “The Shape of You,” which was a #1 hit for 12 weeks running in the United States and currently stands as the most streamed song on Spotify ever. The commentary is provided by Sheeran as well as two of the song’s cowriters, Johnny McDaid and Steve Mac. As pop songs often do these days, the basic song was written in a short, focused session–“the best hour and a half of my life,” producer Steve Mac, who met Sheeran for the first time at that session, explained.

More notable, perhaps, then the details of Sheeran’s trademark guitar-slap percussion and the struggle to fixate on some less “objectifying” lyrics in the chorus (“you are more than your body” was ultimately scrapped) is McDaid’s discussion of Sheeran’s fidgety studio habits. Mac claimed that the guitar-based backbeat in the song is the result of Sheeran’s impatience while waiting for him to get a drum track ready. McDaid, with whom Sheeran estimated he’s written “2 to 300 songs,” spoke more generally about Sheeran’s short attention span, and revealed a truly curious routine that is apparently part of their working relationship:

His attention span can be fairly low. One of the things I did to keep him in the room while I’d be working on a track, I would have like a suitcase full of Lego I’d pull into the hotel room. I’d say, ‘There you go, you build that,’ and it was great ’cause he’d sit and build the Lego, and kind of get lost in that world for a second, and then come back and come up with this moment that was everything.

The “moment,” it turns out, was the chorus of “Shape of You.” The idea of this emergency “suitcase of Lego” is quite an image; it may trigger memories of chaotic playdates with ADD-suffering friends in elementary school. It is also, apparently, central to how the biggest song of this year was written. Perhaps, considering Sheeran and McDaid’s long working relationship, it’s the way many Ed Sheeran songs have been written. Maybe we can even blame this routine for Sheeran’s 2011 ballad “Lego House.”

“To follow a trend is a common thing in pop and it’s something I’ve always tried to not do,” Sheeran said, after explaining he was hoping to give the loosely Caribbean-styled song to Rihanna for a duet. “But I was wrong this time, man–it’s one of the biggest songs of my career.” And to think: it was all thanks to some guitar-slapping and a portable coffer full of Legos.

Watch the NYT video here.