Ed Sheeran Says JAY-Z Was 'Probably Right' to Turn Down a Guest Verse on 'Shape of You'

The singer says the rapper was 'probably right' to turn down a guest verse on the GRAMMY-winning song.

Ed Sheeran has had many musical collaborations over the course of his career, but one wasn't meant to be. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, the singer revealed that JAY-Z turned down an offer to feature on the 2017 megahit "Shape of You."

"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 that the rapper was "probably right" to turn down the offer, adding, "he's got a very, very good ear. He usually gets things right. It was a very natural, respectful pass."

While the single went on to win the 32-year-old a GRAMMY for Best Pop Solo Performance and spent 12 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 list, it also led the singer into a plagiarism lawsuit.  

In March 2022, Sheeran faced songwriters Sami Chokri and Ross O'Donoghue during a hearing in London's High Court after the pair accused Sheeran of copying the melody for "Shape of You" from their 2015 song, "Oh Why," which was released under the name Sami Switch. The duo claimed that Sheeran "borrows ideas and throws them into his songs, sometimes he will acknowledge it but sometimes he won't," per the BBC. They suggested Sheeran treated lesser-known songwriters differently from famous ones.

The British singer denied that he stole anything from other artists, adding that he had cleared parts of songs with "lots" of unknown artists. 

In April of that year, Sheeran walked away with a win, telling fans in a video statement shared to Instagram that he was "obviously happy with the result," but warning 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."

Sheeran was previously sued for $20 million in June 2016 over an allegation that his hit, "Photograph," copies a track released by Matt Cardle, winner of The X-Factor U.K. in 2010. After the parties came to an agreement, court papers were filed in April 2017, dismissing the case with prejudice. 

In 2018, he was hit with another copyright infringement case and still 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." Last September, Manhattan Federal Judge Louis Stanton said that a jury trial would be needed to resolve the issue.

"There is no bright-line rule that the combination of two unprotectable elements is insufficiently numerous to constitute an original work," the judge wrote, according to Billboard.  "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.