Shawn Mendes is winning over teen hearts worldwide with his love songs, his super likeable personality, and of course his looks. For his third album, simply titled Shawn Mendes, he’s off to fill stadiums again on his upcoming world tour.

In order to prepare you for this, we have looked into the lyrics of 5 of Shawn’s biggest hits, and guess what? Shawn’s hits have a deeper meaning than what meets the teen-idol eye.

Shawn who…?

Shawn Peter Raul Mendes grew up in Ontario with his Portuguese father, English mother, and his younger sister. He became involved in music at a young age, which did not go unnoticed. When Shawn was just 15 years old, his covers on the video app Vine and later on YouTube went viral. Within a year, he became one of the most followed musicians on Vine, soon after which he was offered a record deal with Island Records.

Five years on, Shawn has grown into a worldwide pop sensation. He has sold more than a million albums, has been nominated for a Grammy twice and is the first musician ever to have 3 American number 1 hits to his name before the age of 20!

His music is loved worldwide, but umm…. What’s it actually about? We looked into 5 big hits by Shawn Mendes to find out.

5. There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back – Shawn Mendes (Illuminate, 2016)

In There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back, a big hit from his second album Illuminate, Shawn shows us how complicated being in love can be. He’s head over heels for a lady, knowing full well that she’s actually no good for him…

I wanna follow where she goes
I think about her and she knows it
I wanna let her take control

‘Cause everytime that she gets close, yeah

She pulls me in enough to keep me guessing
And maybe I should stop and start confessing
Confessing, yeah

Oof, it sounds like he’s having trouble keeping up with her! But that doesn’t stop him:

Oh, I’ve been shaking
I love it when you go crazy
You take all my inhibitions
Baby, there’s nothing holdin’ me back
You take me places that tear up my reputation
Manipulate my decisions
Baby, there’s nothing holdin’ me back

There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back – Shawn Mendes

You may be asking yourself whether this is autobiographical, but no, Shawn’s inspiration for this song didn’t come from his own love lifeIn an interview with MTV he explained that the idea came to him when reading a script for a film that was going to act in. He liked the female character in the script so much that he wrote this song about her which went on to become a hit.

The MTV host melted while Shawn told this story. Shawn wasn’t phased, saying ‘I mean, it would be cooler if it was a real girl’.

Aw Shawn, don’t worry; you’ll meet her eventually!

4. I Know What You Did Last Summer – Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello (Handwritten: Revisited, 2015)

The duet I Know What You Did Last Summer with Camila Cabello certainly stirred things up when it came out in 2015. Not only was this the first solo project of the then 5th Harmony singer, but rumours also swirled that Shawn and Camila were more than just musical colleagues.

James Corden asked them about this on his The Late Late Show, where the duo denied everything. But not very convincingly..

Whatever the case may be, let’s just hope that the lyrics of I Know What You Did Last Summer aren’t a true story;

He knows
Dirty secrets that I keep
Does he know it’s killing me?
He knows, he knows
D-d-does he know
Another’s hands have touched my skin
I won’t tell him where I’ve been
He knows, he knows, he knows

Ouch, it looks like Camila admits to cheating on Shawn here. He finds out about it and of course, it bothers him:

It’s tearing me apart
She’s slipping away (I’m slipping away)
Am I just hanging on to all the words she used to say?
The pictures on her phone
She’s not coming home
(I’m not coming home)
Coming home, coming home

As it turns out, she lied to him about it too:

I know what you did last summer (Ah-ah)
Just lied to me, “There’s no other” (He-ey)
I know what you did last summer
Tell me where you’ve been

Shawn realises that Camila isn’t the person he fell in love with anymore:

When she looks me in the eyes
They don’t seem as bright
No more, no more I know
That she loved me at one time
Would I promise her that night
Cross my heart and hope to die

Then the argument reaches an emotional peak; they don’t want to lose each other but also don’t know how they can go on:

Tell me where you’ve been lately
(Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t let me go)
Can’t seem to keep you close, can’t seem to let you go
(I didn’t mean it, though)
I know you didn’t mean it, though
I know you didn’t mean it, though
(I don’t wanna let you go)
Tell me you didn’t mean it, though

I Know What You Did Last Summer – Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello

Camila talks about this in an interview with Jimmy Fallon:

The lyric that I connect to the most, is “Can’t seem to let you go, can’t seem to keep you close” (…) It’s such a good example of when a relationship is kind of deteriorating, but you don’t want to let that person go. And it’s (…) like holding you close feels uncomfortable, but I can’t have you too far away from me, because (…) I need you.”

Wow, that sounds like a painful breakup.

What happened between Shawn and Camila is still a mystery. They are obviously still good friends, so it likely didn’t end the way it did in the song’s lyrics.

3. Mercy – Shawn Mendes (Illuminate, 2016)

At first, the smash hit Mercy seems at first to be a dramatic love song. Shawn begs his crush to stop toying with his emotions:

You’ve got a hold of me
Don’t even know your power

I stand a hundred feet
But I fall when I’m around you

Show me an open door
Then you go and slam it on me
I can’t take anymore

I’m saying baby

Please have mercy on me
Take it easy on my heart
Even though you don’t mean to hurt me
You keep tearing me apart
Would you please have mercy, mercy on my heart

But in an interview with Spotify, Shawn describes how the lyrics can be interpreted in another way:

“The other kind of view that I like to view it as; when you find yourself so passionate about something, you find it kind of consuming you. To the point where it drives you a little crazy. And sometimes you’re freaking out and you’re like, “Why do I even do this?” type of thing. Sometimes all you want to do is just beg for mercy but you can’t.”

With this in mind, the following lyrics takes on a whole new meaning:

Consuming all the air inside my lungs
Ripping all the skin from off my bones
I’m prepared to sacrifice my life
I would gladly do it twice
Mercy – Shawn Mendes

Would you have guessed this at first? And what could be so all-consuming for Shawn?

2. In My Blood – Shawn Mendes (Shawn Mendes, 2018)

In the first single of his most recent album, In My Blood, Shawn shows his vulnerable side. This sensitive power ballad is about feeling anxious and insecure, as he describes in an interview with Billboard:

“The concept of this song is about how it feels [when] you’re about to give up, and then you don’t. (…) It’s about something that I think everybody goes through and it’s something that I think people don’t talk about often, especially in music.”

In the lyrics, he phrases this as:

Laying on the bathroom floor, feeling nothing
I’m overwhelmed and insecure, give me something
I could take to ease my mind slowly

Just have a drink and you’ll feel better
Just take her home and you’ll feel better
Keep telling me that it gets better
Does it ever?

Help me
It’s like the walls are caving in
Sometimes I feel like giving up

No medicine is strong enough

But when Shawn thinks he can’t bear it anymore, he realises that he doesn’t want to give up:

Someone help me
I’m crawling in my skin
Sometimes I feel like giving up
But I just can’t
It isn’t in my blood
It isn’t in my blood
In My Blood – Shawn Mendes

This single was very well received by Shawn’s fans, and was even nominated for the Grammy Song of the Year!

1. Youth – Shawn Mendes & Khalid (Shawn Mendes, 2018)

After In My Blood, Shawn released another single with a meaningful message, namely Youth, in collaboration with Khalid. The guys have a clear message, as Shawn describes in an interview with Noise 11:

“[“Youth”] is the most important song on the album. I was touring around Europe when the events of Manchester and London happened, it was very overwhelming. I wanted to write something but it had to be about the feeling for us as a generation when one of these things happens. So I wrote a song about our youth, a feeling that can’t be taken away from us.”

In this power song Shawn and Khalid tell us that they don’t want to let their lives be overshadowed by drama:

Waking up to headlines filled with devastation again
My heart is broken, but I keep going

Pain, but I won’t let it turn into hate
No, I won’t let it change me
Never losing sight
Of the one I keep inside
Now, I know it
Yeah, I know it

You can’t take my youth away
This soul of mine will never break
As long as I wake up today

You can’t take my youth away

Youth – Shawn Mendes & Khalid

While this song offers encouragement to victims of terrorist attacks, it’s also an anthem for the March of Our Lives movement.

After a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida where 17 students lost their lives, the students that survived decided that things couldn’t continue this way. They were tired of the shootings and organised demonstrations in order to change the gun control laws in America.

Shawn supported this movement by donating a part of the revenues of Youth to the March of Our Lives organisation.

The music video for the song also shows a clear message: young people have a voice and can also make a difference.

Shawn Mendes 2.0

This Top 5 has made it clear that Shawn Mendes has grown from a teen who sings songs in his bedroom into someone who wants to convey a (societal) message through his music. His latest album is self-titled for a good reason; he explained in an interview with Beats 1 that he chose this title because he was never so emotionally involved before during the recording of an album.

Shawn not only opened himself to new sounds, but also to deeper and more vulnerable lyrics. We at Nolala are curious to see if Shawn continues this in the future; we are looking forward to more meaningful lyrics!

Are you going to one of the Shawn Mendes: The Tour concerts? Have fun!

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– There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back is written by Geoffrey Warburton / Scott Harris Friedman / Shawn Mendes / Teddy Geiger © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group, Peermusic Publishing, Words & Music A Div Of Big Deal Music LLC, 2016.
– I Know What You Did Last Summer is written by Camila Cabello / Shawn Mendes / Bill Withers / Ido Zmishlany © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group, Downtown Music Publishing, 2015.
– Mercy is written by Danny Parker / Isley Juber / Shawn Mendes / Teddy Geiger Universal Music Publishing Group, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Peermusic Publishing, Words & Music A Div Of Big Deal Music LLC, 2016.
– In My Blood is written by Shawn Mendes / Geoff Warburton / Teddy Geiger / Scott Harris © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Peermusic Publishing, Words & Music A Div Of Big Deal Music LLC, 2018.
– Youth is written by Geoffrey Elliott Warburton / Khalid Robinson / Scott Harris Friedman / Shawn Mendes / Teddy Geiger © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group, Peermusic Publishing, Words & Music A Div Of Big Deal Music LLC, 2018.