"Shape of You" peaked at number-one on the singles charts of 34 countries, including the US Billboard Hot 100 (later becoming the best performing song of 2017), as well as the UK, Australian and Canadian singles charts. It stayed at number one for a record-tying 16 consecutive weeks on the Canadian Hot 100, as well as 14 non-consecutive weeks on the UK Singles Chart, and 12 non-consecutive weeks on the Billboard Hot 100. On 10 December 2018, the song became the first song to hit 2 billion streams and the most streamed song on Spotify. It was the best-selling song of 2017 and the decade in the UK. "Shape of You" was the best selling-song of 2017 and the best selling digital song worldwide, with combined sales and track-equivalent streams of 26.6 million units according to IFPI. In 2018, it sold an additionally 14.9 million copies.
The song was the last song written for Sheeran's third album ÷. On 6 January 2017, when hosting The Radio 1 Breakfast Show, Sheeran revealed that "Shape of You" had originally been written with Rihanna in mind. As he had already written all the songs he wanted for the album, the song was therefore not intended to be included in the album. It was conceived as a duet between Rihanna and Rudimental, but the head of the record label convinced him to keep the song for himself. He said:
"['Shape of You'] is actually a really random one because I went in to write songs for other people with a guy called Steve Mac and Johnny McDaid, and we were writing this song and I was like 'this would really work for Rihanna,'" he explained. "And then I started singing lyrics like 'putting Van the Man on the jukebox' and I was like 'well she's not really going to sing that, is she?' And then we sort of decided halfway through that we were just going to make it for me."
According to Sheeran, Steve Mac started the songwriting session by playing the opening notes of the song on the keyboard. Sheeran then joined in, adding percussion by tapping on the guitar, layering it onto the track. On the writing of the song, he said that he tried to keep the music "more stripped" instead of something more elaborate: "I'm an acoustic artist, first and foremost. And when I play live, I can't replicate these things, I haven't got all the other musicians." Sheeran said he wanted an R&B feel to the song, therefore he adjusted the original tune, adding an interpolation of "No Scrubs" onto part of the melody. He also revealed that the original lyrics did not end with the words "the shape of you" in the chorus, but during the writing of the song, McDaid thought that the lyrics "I'm in love with your body" sounded objectifying, and the lyrics was therefore adjusted.
On 4 January 2017, Sheeran uploaded a six-second teaser video of a blue background to social media, with lyrics "the club isn't the best place to find a lover", which is the first line of "Shape of You". To further tease the release, Sheeran and his label used a sponsored Snapchat lens filter with 30 seconds of the song to increase buzz among the general public.
"Shape of You" is a pop,dancehall and tropical house song with "strummy acoustics." In the song, Sheeran sings over a marimba-fueled percussive sway about a budding romance. "The club isn't the best place to find a lover, so the bar is where I go/ Me and my friends at the table doing shots drinking fast and then we talk slow", he sings. "Come over and start up a conversation with just me/ And trust me I'll give it a chance." According to NT News, the song "tells the story of loved (or lusted) up Sheeran meeting a girl in a bar where he and his mates are doing shots." "Shape of You" is written in the key of C♯ minor with a tempo of 96 beats per minute. The song is composed in common time (4 4 time), and follows a basic chord progression of C♯m–F♯m–A–B (i–iv–VI–VII), and Sheeran's vocals span from G♯2 to G♯4.
Jon Caramanica from The New York Times said, "'Shape of You' is trickier, a nimble and effective song that takes the aggressive thinning of 'Caribbean music'."Billboard's Taylor Weatherby wrote about the song saying, "'Shape of You' doesn't quite sound like your typical Sheeran tune. But that almost serves as an indication of what the "Thinking Out Loud" singer has been up to during his hiatus: creating music that still feels like Sheeran, just with a new twist." Jeremy Gordon of Spin gave the song a positive review, stating that the song "is a plausible attempt at convincing us he has had sex ... a lot of it. It kind of slaps, though you can't really picture Sheeran ever saying 'put that body on me' to a real human woman." News website Metro wrote that it sounds similar to the song "Cheap Thrills" by Sia.
"Shape of You" debuted at number one on the UK Singles Chart on 13 January, selling 227,000 combined units in its first week. Sheeran also debuted at number 2 with the song "Castle on the Hill", making him the only artist in UK chart history to debut in the top two positions. "Shape of You" debuted at number two on the Scottish Singles Chart behind "Castle on the Hill". The song was certified Silver in the first week due to selling 200,000 units and Gold in the second week selling 400,000 units. The song remained at number one in its second week, selling 139,000. It has stayed at number one for 13 consecutive weeks on the UK Singles Chart, and a further week at the top after a week's interruption by Harry Styles' "Sign of the Times". In July 2017, the song reached 184 million in streams, making it the most-streamed song in the UK of all time. It was the nation's highest selling and most streamed track of 2017 with 787,000 copies sold and 248 million streams throughout the year, to produce a combined sales of 3.2 million. It is the 3rd best-selling single in the United Kingdom regarding combined sales and streaming equivalent as of 19 September 2017.
The song debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, selling 240,000 downloads and gaining 20 million streams in its debut week in the US, becoming Sheeran's first number one song in the country. Sheeran also became the first artist to debut two songs in the top 10 the same week in the history of the Hot 100, with "Castle on the Hill" also debuting at number six. "Shape of You" topped the Hot 100 for 12 non-consecutive weeks. In its fourth week at number one, the song also topped the Mainstream Top 40, becoming Sheeran's second number-one single on the chart (after 2015's "Thinking Out Loud"). On 6 May 2017, it fell to number two on the Hot 100, being displaced by "Humble" by Kendrick Lamar. On the issue date, 2 September 2017, "Shape of You" spent its 32nd week in the top ten of Hot 100, tying the record for most week on that chart with LeAnn Rimes' "How Do I Live" and "Closer" by The Chainsmokers featuring Halsey. The following week, "Shape of You" spent its 33rd consecutive week in the top 10, breaking the 20-year-old record. On Billboard's Dance/Mix Show Airplay chart, "Shape of You" became Sheeran's first number one on a Dance/EDM chart (his third top ten and sixth overall at Dance/Mix Show Airplay) in the United States. Afterwards, the song topped Dance Club Songs in its 18 March 2017 issue, his first as a solo artist and his second entry on this chart, when he was a featured artist on Rudimental's "Lay It All on Me", which peaked at No. 38 in 2016. By August 2017, "Shape of You" was the best selling song of 2017 in the US with 2.3 million copies sold, the only one to sell over two million. It is also the most streamed song with 799.7 million combined audio and video streams. The song became the number one song of the year on Billboard Hot 100 in 2017, and the second best-selling song in the US after "Despacito" with over 2.5 million copies sold.
It debuted at number one in France, and was later certified diamond there. According to Pure Charts, in the first half of the year 2017, the song reached 631,000 units (105,000 sales and 526,000 units from streams) and as of September 2017, it exceeds 812,109 units (707,109 from streams). In Australia, the song stayed at No. 1 for 15 weeks, breaking a record set 22 years ago by Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise". In doing this, it also broke ABBA's record of fourteen weeks at number one, which was set on the previous Australian charts before the ARIA charts became Australia's official charts. "Shape of You" was also Australia's highest selling song of 2017 with 630,000 copies sold by the end of the year. The song is the first ever number one single of the Philippine Hot 100 upon the chart's inception on 12 June 2017. It stayed at the peak position for 4 consecutive weeks before it was dethroned by "Despacito" by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee featuring Justin Bieber.
Worldwide, the song reached one billion streams on Spotify in June 2017. It became the most streamed song on Spotify in September 2017, reaching 1,318,420,396 streams overtaking Drake's "One Dance".
In August 2018, Billboard published a new edition of the "Greatest of All Time Hot 100 Singles" chart, its list of the 100 best-performing songs in the history of the Hot 100. "Shape of You" is ranked at number nine, the third-highest position of any song released in the 2010s (behind only "Uptown Funk" by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars and "Party Rock Anthem" by LMFAO featuring Lauren Bennett and GoonRock). Sheeran also has another song charted in the all-time list, as "Perfect" is ranked #91.
On 5 January 2017, to accompany the song's release, a lyric video for "Shape of You" was released on Sheeran's YouTube channel with "Castle on the Hill". As of May 2019, the official lyric video has had over 820 million views on YouTube.
On 30 January 2017, the song's official music video, starring American dancer and model Jennie Pegouskie and retired professional sumo wrestler Yamamotoyama Ryūta (credited as "Yama"), was released on Sheeran's channel. It was shot on location in Seattle, and was directed by Jason Koenig. On 8 May 2017, 97 days after its release, it became one of the fastest music videos to reach 1 billion views on YouTube, and as of May 2019, the music video has over 4.2 billion views on the site and is the site's second most-watched video.
The official remix of "Shape of You" features newly additional verses and guest vocals by English grime artist Stormzy. The remix premiered during Sheeran and Stormzy's live collaboration at the 2017 Brit Awards at The O2 in London on 22 February 2017. Sheeran announced on Twitter that the remix would be released officially on 24 February 2017. On the same date, various remixes of the song were released on digital music services. Sheeran teased the releases ahead of 2017 Brit Awards ceremony. "I've got two things dropping on Friday that are pretty interesting", he revealed in a BBC Radio 1 interview just hours before the big show. "One that gets debuted at the Brits, which I think people will go a bit nuts for." He added, "It's something that I think nobody is expecting. I think it'll be decent."
In the United States, "Shape of You" has immediately become a favorite among DJs and remixers, prompting several of them to create their own versions. One DJ, Joe "Maz" Masurka, told Billboard that after he did his own remix on the single that he received a lot of great feedback and response: "I absolutely love the track, so I had to remix it myself so that I could play it in all my live shows. Ed is a genius; best song in the last few years. I've been playing it literally everywhere I've been booked since about mid-January: Hyde Bellagio in Las Vegas, E11even and Ora in Miami, Parq in San Diego, Premier Atlantic City ... the dance floor loves it." A Latin remix featuring reggaeton duo Zion & Lennox was released on 17 March 2017. Sheeran and American rapper Lil Uzi Vert performed a live remix of "Shape Of You" during the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards, followed by a rendition of Lil Uzi Vert's song "XO Tour Llif3".
Published by Ed Sheeran Limited and Sony/ATV Music Publishing (UK) Limited, Spirit B Unique Music / Polar Patrol administered by Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd. (PRS) and Rokstone Music Limited administered under exclusive license to Universal Music Publishing Limited
^"Media Forest – Weekly Charts. Media Forest. 20 March 2017. Retrieved 2 July 2018. Note: Romanian and international positions are rendered together by the number of plays before resulting an overall chart.
^"Media Forest – Weekly Charts. Media Forest. 27 February 2017. Retrieved 3 July 2018. Note: Select 'Songs – TV'. Romanian and international positions are rendered together by the number of plays before resulting an overall chart.