There are undoubtably a number of songs I could have chosen to illustrate this point, but with “Treat You Better” Shawn Mendes has created the ultimate anthem for every self-proclaimed Nice Guy™ all the world over.

I am going to dissect (and I do mean dissect, so prepare for some savagery) this song line by line to show how the lyrics may sound fine at first, but are actually utterly detestable.

Right, let’s tear this track to shreds.

I won’t lie to you

Okay, we’re off to a good start. I wonder what you’re telling her that you don’t want to lie about. After all, it must be something pretty damn important if you’re starting off the conversation with such a serious tone.

I know he’s just not right for you

Ah, so her boyfriend’s bad for her. Is he abusive? Are they just incompatible? Do you know that he’s cheating on her or something? Please explain why he’s not right for her, Shawn, I’m all ears.

And you can tell me if I’m off

Good, you’re doing well. It’s one thing to express concern that someone’s relationship is unhealthy, but you can’t just insist you’re right when they’re the one actually in said relationship and therefore should know if they’re happy with it or not.

But I see it on your face

And the plot thickens. What can you see on her face? A bruise from where her boyfriend hit her? A look of sadness, which is how you know she’s unhappy? Let’s find out.

When you say that he’s the one that you want

So you’re not actually going to tell us what you see on her face? Okay then. This line makes no sense in that case. If you said you saw sadness on her face when she says he’s the one she wants, or something like that, then I’d understand. But I can’t know what you mean if you don’t goddamn tell me! For all I know you might see sincerity, or happiness, on her face when she says he’s the one she wants, which kind of undermines this entire song.

And you’re spending all your time
In this wrong situation
And anytime you want it to stop

I’ll tackle these three lines in one go since they’re basically one sentence. You say she’s in a wrong situation, but what makes it wrong? You have provided literally no evidence that her boyfriend is in any way not right for her. So far this sounds like a desperate attempt to justify why she should be with you instead of him, not an offer of help to someone who needs it. But maybe it’ll improve, let’s move on.

I know I can treat you better than he can

What, by whining and complaining constantly but making no valid points? If that’s treating her better then her current boyfriend must really suck. Then again, we only have your word for it that you could treat her better, so I have no reason to believe anything you’re saying.

And any girl like you deserves a gentleman

I can’t tell if he says “gentleman” or “gentle man” here because his enunciation is complete crap. If it’s “gentleman” then it’s fine, I guess, although why are you implying that only girls like her deserve a gentleman? Are you saying there are types of girls who deserve to be treated badly? If it’s “gentle man” then I must ask, who the hell would ever use the phrase “gentle man”? Nobody, that’s who, because it sounds like a bad guy describing their henchman; “oh, don’t worry, this torturer here is a gentle man”.

Tell me why are we wasting time
On all your wasted crying

Oh wow. We’ve almost reached rock bottom here. First, why are you suggesting that any time she spends anywhere other than with you is wasted? Can she not have her own life? And as for the second line, oh boy. If she is in a legitimately abusive relationship, then you describing her crying as “wasted” is just despicable. Way to disregard her feelings… oh wait, that’s what you’ve been doing this whole song already. And if she’s not in an abusive relationship, then she’s probably crying because you keep harassing her and she’s scared of you. Also, “time” doesn’t rhyme with “crying”. Yeah, there are so many levels on which these two lines don’t work.

When you should be with me instead
I know I can treat you better
Better than he can

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse. You have done absolutely nothing to explain why she shouldn’t be with her current boyfriend or why she should be with you instead. Why should I believe that you can treat her better when you have told me nothing about how her current boyfriend treats her, or how you’d treat her if you were together? Based on this song so far, I’d say she’s probably just fine with her current boyfriend.

I’ll stop time for you

And how are you going to do that exactly? You couldn’t even stop a sneeze if you tried, Mendes.

The second you say you’d like me to

If you seriously believe that she’s in trouble, why would you not try to help her anyway? Oh right, because she has to agree to sleep with you before you’ll help, I remember now. I could understand wanting to respect her boundaries, but given for the whole song you’ve been moaning to her about how she won’t sleep with you I highly doubt that was your motivation here.

I just wanna give you the loving that you’re missing

Once again, why should I think that she’s missing out on love at the moment? Or that you could give it to her if she was missing out on it?

Baby, just to wake up with you
Would be everything I need and this could be so different

Yeah, baby, things could be so different: you could be having sex with me because I persisted until you gave in, instead of having sex with the man you actually chose to be with. Isn’t that romantic? These lines could have worked in a different context, but when the rest of the song is so repugnant they’re tainted by association.

Tell me what you want to do

Finally you actually ask her what she wants and act like she’s a human being who can make her own decisions. Way too little too late though.

Give me a sign
Take my hand, we’ll be fine
Promise I won’t let you down
Just know that you don’t
Have to do this alone
Promise I’ll never let you down

I’m not even going to bother going through this last bit, it’s all just generic pseudo-romantic stuff that a million other songs have done before (and most of them did it better). If Shawn Mendes can’t make the effort to write a halfway decent song then I won’t waste any more of my effort on this dumpster fire.

In conclusion, sometimes things seem nice on the surface, but upon closer analysis the unpleasantness inside is revealed. Like a turd covered in chocolate!

If you want to experience this garbage that Shawn Mendes is calling music for yourself, and hear all the different ways he can mispronounce the phrase “better than he can”, then I’ll leave the music video below for your enjoyment (or more likely lack thereof). I’m not sure what’s more terrifying: the number of views it’s had, or that there are over 4 million likes and under 200,000 dislikes.

This list is based on the top 50 entries on the End of Year Singles Chart Top 100 list for 2009, which you can find here.

Apart from every song having to be on the aforementioned list, the only other rule was that I had to listen to every song I was considering all the way through at least once.

Overall I think that 2009 was a good year for pop music. All of my top 10 and honourable mentions are songs that I enjoy and think are worth listening to, which is much more than I can say for more recent years.

Now, let’s get to the list. First, the HONOURABLE MENTIONS. These are in no particular order, but if you’re desperate to know how I would rank them then I’d probably say they’re ordered with the least good first to the best one last, i.e. they get better as you go down the page.

Jay-Z – Empire State of Mind (feat. Alicia Keys)

I couldn’t care less about Jay-Z’s contribution here, because it’s Alicia Keys who makes this song. Her piano melody is the spine of the song and her vocals on the chorus are what got this its place here, and it would have been much higher if she had been the only performer on the track.

Lady Gaga – Poker Face

This song has an infectious beat and a relentlessly catchy hook working in its favour, but Lady Gaga has given much stronger vocal performances than this. The processed sound of her voice fits the tone of the song, but it also highlights the excessive repetition towards the end. As evidenced by entries higher up in the list, she can do much better.

Tinchy Stryder – Number 1 (feat. N-Dubz)

Well this was something I wasn’t expecting. I went into this song with low expectations and I came out very pleasantly surprised. However, while it exceeded my expectations hugely, they were very low to begin with, hence why this isn’t higher on the list. There’s a strong melody and a decent message here, as well as some strings that create a nice contrast with the beat. It’s still fairly generic though, and the vocals are slightly over processed. In short, I’ve heard an awful lot worse, but I’ve also heard quite a bit better.

The Black Eyed Peas – Meet Me Halfway

I am not a fan of The Black Eyed Peas. At all. But I can admit that this song is good. Fergie actually uses her vocal talent for once and is a lot less annoying than usual, although that’s not saying much. It benefits from much more organic instrumentation than a lot of their tracks, which means it sounds like actual music instead of someone messing around on a synthesiser. The high point is definitely the driving chorus, and while the rest of it’s not bad, it doesn’t do enough to match that peak and create a truly excellent song.

Lily Allen – Not Fair

Lily Allen was a breath of fresh air amongst all the mediocre, over sanitised tripe I had to listen to while making this list. She’s witty, she’s honest, and she knows how to write a tune. In this song she laments that her boyfriend is perfect in every way except for in the bedroom, and it’s nice to hear a realistic, open discussion of sex in a pop song. “I look into your eyes, I want to get to know you, and then you make this noise and it’s apparent it’s all over” 😀 Most artists paint it as an incredible, life changing experience, and while it can be that, it’s important to remember that it isn’t always quite so wonderful.

Kings of Leon – Sex on Fire

I like this song, although as will become clear later I think it is the weaker of the two hits that Kings of Leon had in 2009. This is a prime example of a track that has suffered from overplay, and if I hadn’t heard it so many times then it would probably have been higher on the list. It is good to see a rock song become so popular though.

With the best of the rest covered it’s time to move on to the list proper, so here we go.

10. Noisettes – Don’t Upset the Rhythm (Go Baby Go)

This song is a forgotten gem. It has a smooth groove, great vocals, and it’s catchy as hell, not to mention the retro vibe which makes for a different sound in the modern charts. This is the best Supremes track that the Supremes never did 😀

9. James Morrison – Broken Strings (feat. Nelly Furtado)

This is a break up duet done right. The melancholy strings set the mood perfectly, and both singers sound suitably pained and lovelorn. Both of the vocalists give strong performances on their own, but when they come together on the chorus is when they really excel.

8. Lady Gaga – Just Dance (feat. Colby O’Donis)

Musically and lyrically, this song represents the moment when a party crosses the line from fun to depressing. Lady Gaga perfectly captures the feelings of someone who has just realised that they’re a complete mess, but keeps dancing in a desperate attempt to put off the moment when they’ll have to face that realisation. For a debut single this was fantastic, and of course she didn’t turn out to be the one hit wonder some people thought she would be.

7. Lily Allen – The Fear

Instrumentally, this song sounds gorgeous. The floaty tone of the synth creates the shallow, sparse atmosphere the track needs while also creating an incessantly catchy melody. It’s the lyrics that secure its place here though. Lily Allen mercilessly tears down the vacuous celebrity culture of today, and she sounds wonderfully cheerful as she does.

6. Lady Gaga – Paparazzi

This song is both a modern stalker anthem in the vein of Every Breath You Take or Andy You’re a Star, and a commentary on how the press practically stalk celebrities in order to get stories. The jerky percussion and eerie synths on the verses build up a suitably unsettling sound for the subject matter, and the perky sounding chorus creates an irresistible contrast. Also, cool trivia fact: the music video features Alexander Skarsgård, who is the son of Stellan Skarsgård, whose filmography includes Mamma Mia! and two Pirates of the Caribbean films and many other roles besides.

5. La Roux – In for the Kill
4. La Roux – Bulletproof

I’ll talk about these two in one go since they are from the same artist and have a fairly similar sound. Both of these songs are fantastic pieces of 80s style synth-pop which remind me of Depeche Mode or Yazoo at their best. It’s very difficult to argue with the pulsing beats and slick vocals, so you might as well just accept that you’re going to love these tracks.

3. Lady Gaga – Bad Romance

This is the ultimate bad relationship anthem of the current generation, and it is certainly one of Lady Gaga’s strongest songs. The lyrics describe two equally messed up people who are somehow great together as they can both accept the other’s flaws because they’re so aware of their own. The verses build effortlessly to the huge chorus where one can see the true extent of Lady Gaga’s vocal power. All in all, this is simply a great pop song, and there’s a lot to be said for that.

2. Beyoncé – Halo

Speaking of vocal power, here’s another shining example. This is by far my favourite song from Beyoncé, and a large part of that is because it actually uses her full potential. The piano riff is instantly recognisable, but it’s Beyoncé’s voice that pushes this song from good to excellent. It’s a stellar performance, and she makes it seem effortless. This track also has a very strong melody, unlike many of her other songs, which may be due to Ryan Tedder’s co-writing credit. If so then please work with him again, Beyoncé, because I want more like this. The video’s pretty sweet too.


It’s a rare occurrence to get a rock song in the charts, and an even rarer occurrence that it’s a song this good. Therefore there was really no other choice for the top spot. Everything about this track works, from the explosive chorus to the raw, desperate vocals. I would sincerely love to hear more rock of this quality on the radio. Seriously, pretty please, can we stop putting mediocre crap in the charts and listen to music with substance like this instead? After looking at the current charts, it would seem that apparently we can’t. Oh well, I’ll just have to enjoy the hell out of songs like this when they do appear then.