I’m not a music guy by and large. Movies and TV are where my oversaturated nerd brain fires most of its misguided neurons, which isn’t to say there aren’t bands and songs I like. Just that I don’t think about music as much as the guys at Mojo magazine do. So when I took a new job recently which involves a lot of background radio, the state of current pop music was slightly overwhelming.
One song in particular is now burned into my ears like a hidden scar. The acoustic guitar wielding, quiff-haired antics of Shawn Mendes. Mendes has the unassuming, boyish looks that record labels search desperately for with an eye to marketing them at teenage girls. Unfortunately, his biggest hit – Stitches – is an abomination that needs to be vaporised with a flamethrower.
The worst thing, of course, is that Mendes didn’t even write Stitches. It could have fooled us: the song’s lyrics are full of the kind of derivative high school poetry you’d find in a 17 year old’s thought journal. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve written some garbage in my time, but I’ve never expected anyone to pay to read it – much less push it into the Billboard top ten.
Here’s the problem with Stitches. It’s a break up song, but every piece of imagery it uses to make us feel sorry for the singer is so old and used up I wouldn’t be surprised if it hadn’t all been bought at a yard sale.
This girl you’re cut up about said some pretty mean things, Shawn. How much did that hurt?
“Your words cut deeper than a knife”
Wow, I haven’t heard that one before. Until now I wasn’t sure this was a serious break up. A knife though? That one’s not been in every teenage boy’s amateur song writing notepad since the 1950s. How did you end up mixed up with this girl, Shawn?
“Just like a moth unto a flame oh, you lured me in, I couldn’t sense the pain”
You do realise moths are stupid, right? And that you just compared yourself to a moth? Also, “moth unto a flame” is such a worn out metaphor at this point it’s like those faded, colourless jeans your dad keeps on wearing because he’s too cheap to by a new pair.
Anyway, Shawn, what are you going to do about all this? You know it’s not healthy, or fair, to keep obsessing over a girl once things are over, right?
“Needle and the thread, Gotta get you out of head”
Okay Shawn. Erm, that’s actually an alright lyric. I mean on its own it’s pretty dumb, but since the song is about you “needing stitches” to get over this girl, referencing needles and threads is pretty smart for a 17 year old. Not that simply referencing needles and threads should get you any points without any context, but this is a world where Lil Wayne can end a rap verse with the words “soccer team” and we’re supposed to know what he’s on about. Our standards are lower, is what I’m saying.
The problem is though, that Stitches wasn’t actually written by a 17 year old. If Shawn Mendes, who’s still technically not old enough to have finished high school in Canada, had written this it might not be so offensive. Teenagers write trash all the time thinking it’s Shakespeare. Stitches was written by professional songwriters. Guys who’ve written for Nick Jonas and James Blunt. They have industry experience.
Look, I know the chances of me being able to write quality pop songs is pretty slim. I don’t have an ear for creating catchy riffs and my brain’s not built for writing something as tight and rhythmic as a song. But from where I’m standing Stitches makes Shawn Mendes sound like just another smarmy ass hole with an acoustic guitar moaning about a break up in the vaguest, blandest way possible.
It’s like they used a machine to suck all the talent out of Ed Sheeran and left behind a bland husk that makes us feel nothing.
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