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.