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Rehumanizing Language in Ed Sheeran’s “Small Bump”

The art of a culture reflects the ideas, themes, and opinions prevalent at that time. We often look at music throughout the years and see how different world events influenced the music. Likewise, we often revere musicians in our own time and allow their reactions and beliefs to influence our own, whether this is a conscious action or not. In a culture where music often views people as objects of lust or as means to some end, singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran is a refreshing outlier.

Sheeran’s music encompasses a wide variety of sounds, but he is most known for his soulful lyrics. With few exceptions, his lyrics are human centered and respect the dignity of each human person. Most of Sheeran’s songs focus on people in love, so this respect for human life does not seem out of the ordinary and, in fact, would be expected from most listeners. Additionally, Sheeran has songs that focus on the dignity of marginalized groups. His songs “Little Lady” and “The a Team” discuss the life of a sex worker. His song “Small Bump” was written in the perspective of a family who tragically loses their child through miscarriage. By focusing on the relationship between father and unborn child, this song shows the dignity of preborn humans.

The song is written as a letter from father to child “Oh, you are my one and only. You can wrap your fingers round my thumb and hold me tight, and you'll be alright.” He describes the relationship between father and child that exists even before the child is born. “And I'll whisper quietly, I'll give you nothing but truth. If you’re not inside me, I’ll put my future in you.”

The second verse of the song talks about the child and the way he may look. Though the child is “just a small bump,” that does not stop Sheeran from telling the child how he imagines he looks, “with a smile like hers and a dimple beneath your chin. Finger nails the size of a half grain of rice, and eyelids closed to be soon opened wide. A small bump, in four months you'll open your eyes.” He acknowledges yes, this is a living human being in the womb, even though he cannot see his child or know what he will look like.

The chorus repeats again, and then there is a short bridge. Sheeran imagines how his life will change when his child is born. He tells his child, “You can lie with me, with your tiny feet when you're half asleep.” This creates a very clear image, and both Sheeran and listeners recognize the child in this scenario is the same child currently in his mother’s womb.

The chorus repeats one last time, then all the music fades out. There is a slight strumming of a guitar to emphasize the words of the last two lines of the song: “You were just a small bump unborn for four months, then torn from life. Maybe you were needed up there but we're still unaware as why.” The eerie transition of the music combined with these haunting lyrics creates an immediate feeling of grief. This child passed away, and his parents are mourning the loss of his life, though it only lasted a few short months.

Throughout this song, Sheeran focuses on the relationship between father and child. He emphasizes the humanity, the personhood, of the preborn child. Listeners are emotionally attached to this relationship and this child. This is a large reason the last two lines are so haunting to all listeners, regardless of whether they consider themselves pro-life. Also, the line clearly states that the child was “torn from life.” He was already alive inside his mother’s womb. The combination of this direct statement of life and the emotions listeners feel at the loss of the child creates a strong pro-life sentiment in this song.

The society we live in desperately needed this song and continues to need more songs like it. The topic of miscarriage is often swept under the rug and ignored, as if we collectively declared it a taboo subject. Parents who have experience with miscarriage can listen to “Small Bump” and realize they are not the only people who have struggled with this. This song also shows the personhood and dignity of human beings from the moment of conception. With an artist as popular as Ed Sheeran singing this song, these two issues are brought into public eye.

This one song will not magically change the culture. “Small Bump” will not cause every person who listens to it to have an epiphany that preborn humans have dignity and deserve rights—it may not even cause one person to have that realization. But hopefully this song will cause some people who listen to it to think a little harder about their beliefs.

"Small Bump" official music video:

Disclaimer: The views presented in the Rehumanize Blog do not necessarily represent the views of all members, contributors, or donors. We exist to present a forum for discussion within the Consistent Life Ethic, to promote discourse and present an opportunity for peer review and dialogue.

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