The Underrated Flow of “Whatever It Takes”


This is not a review of an Ed Sheeran song. But allow me to gush about him for a second to make a point.

Ed Sheeran’s amazing. He’s got all the talent in the world, he’s a genius song writer, and he worked his way up through hard work and determination. I could go on and on about his brilliance, but one thing that always stood out to me about his rise to the top was how different he was from other pop artists. He wasn’t a ripped dreamboat, and he wasn’t writing songs that sounded like anyone else. Looking at his early work, in songs like U.N.I. and Lego House, one thing stands out in particular: the rhythm he puts into his lyrics.

Look, I’m not saying Ed invented rap. He didn’t. But there’s a way he puts rhythm into the melodies of his vocals that is really interesting.

Just listen to the line from “Lego House” that goes:

And it’s dark in a cold December

but I got you to keep me warm.

He’s not just singing those words. He’s syncopating them in a way that, at the time, was fairly unique to pop songs, and it’s awesome.

That song came out on an album that was released in 2011. A lot has changed in that time. Ed’s gone from a plucky little artist to perhaps the world’s biggest international male music star, and the pop scene has caught on to some of his tricks, including his rhythmic lyrics.

Now, I have no grounds whatsoever to claim that “Whatever It Takes” by Imagine Dragons is influenced by Ed Sheeran. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. But the point stands that the rhythmic lyrics that helped Ed rise to the top were cool when Ed did them, and they’re still cool when Imagine Dragons does them.

Because I think that’s the real strength of this song. Yes, it’s got an easy to remember, catchy chorus, yes, it’s a decent hype song, sure. But what sets it aside from every other song that I’m tired of seeing in sports montages is that fabulous rhythm that the lyrics are given. Check out the opening verse:

Falling too fast to prepare for this
Tripping in the world could be dangerous
Everybody circling, it’s vulturous
Negative, nepotist

Everybody waiting for the fall of man
Everybody praying for the end of times
Everybody hoping they could be the one
I was born to run, I was born for this

It just has a nice flow to it. It’s not just putting words to music to a nice melody and singing it well. It’s a well-written, well thought-out, well-constructed verse.

Look at how much the first four lines rhyme, and then look at how the last four lines don’t rhyme, but instead flow by repeating words and sentence structure, up until the last line, where the rhyme between “one/run” comes faster than you’d expect, because “run” isn’t at the end of a line, and then that line ends with the word “this,” which ties the second half of the verse back to the first half by returning to the same rhyme they were using earlier.

It’s just awesome. In the interest of time, I won’t go into more details, or I’d end up going over the whole song (because it’s all this good), but I found that looking at the lyrics gave me a whole other appreciation for them.

They sound great, but when you look at WHY they sound great, it makes you realize that this song was written by someone with a pretty good head between their shoulders.

And the great lyrics, combined with that Sheeran-esque syncopation, make “Whatever It Takes” a great song.


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