“Treat You Better” by Shawn Mendes

This song gave Shawn Mendes’ second album, Illuminate, a reputation as a Sophomore Slump before it was even out, and even among people who wound up liking the album, only Mendes’ most hardcore devotees seem willing to defend this song. Oddly, some people have complained about the subject matter, which seems to have touched off some internet-specific cultural buttons among the political correctness crowd. But this basic song model dates back at least to the Fifties and Sixties (the most famous example being The Beatles’ “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl”), and the real problems with the song are artistic and musical. For one thing, while I usually quite like Shawn Mendes’ rich tenor voice, the faux-Reggae vocal showboating he attempts here is not at all a good fit for it, and the tuneless vocal melody doesn’t help. Also, whoever produced this is desperately trying to sound like T Bone Burnett, and not only are they failing miserably, but that sound is not a good fit for Mendes to begin with. And the insultingly pretentious and sensationalistic video, which tries to pretend that this shallow ‘take-your-girlfriend’ song is some kind of treatise on abusive relationships, probably hasn’t helped the song’s case. So, yes, even though I enjoyed quite a bit of Mendes’ first album, I can definitely see why this song is so widely hated, and I can’t say I like it much myself either.

Verdict: Bad

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