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Ed Sheeran spent late April and early May inside a New York courthouse, where he was defending himself against copyright infringement accusations from the estate of the co-writer of Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On. The plaintiffs argued that Sheeran’s 2014 hit Thinking Out Loud plagiarized Let’s Get It On, as evidenced by their similar tempos, common grooves, and most importantly, a I-iii-IV-V chord sequence. The defense argued that these similarities are building blocks of songwriting that all musicians are entitled to use. They cited Axis of Awesome’s comedy song Four Chords as proof that an innumerable number of songs share the same fundamentals.
A guilty verdict from the court would’ve had a cataclysmic impact on the music industry. The ramifications would’ve been so destructive that Sheeran announced he would quit music entirely if he was convicted. Fortunately for Sheeran, the jury sided with the defense. It was a win not only for the singer but for the entire music industry as well. It was a step towards slowing down the industry’s litigious nature, which has only accelerated since Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams’ were forced to pay a $5 million judgment due to similarities between their 2015 hit Blurred Lines and another Marvin Gaye classic, Got To Give It Up.
Mere hours after the verdict was delivered, Sheeran released his album -, pronounced “subtract.” Though Sheeran was saved from having to quit music, subtract is the fifth and final installment of his math-themed album series, which began with + in 2011. Over the course of the mathematical gambit, Sheeran has experimented with rap-folk, R&B-folk, wedding ballads, and radio-ready dance pop hits. On his latest record, Sheeran returns to his stripped-back roots, but instead of partnering with his go-to…