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Track Review

It's all fun and games until the romance stops and the bleeding starts.

That's my one-sentence summary of the highest-charting single to date from this young Canadian pop phenom. (Note to Plugged In's lawyers: Check to see if Justin Bieber has trademarked that title.) Indeed, the red stuff flows freely throughout this lovelorn triage track—mostly metaphorically … but also literally, as evidenced in the video.

Love (Still) Hurts

The premise of "Stitches" is simple: A bad breakup has left Shawn Mendes feeling emotionally bruised, battered and bloodied. That's why he's in need of some serious first aid, romantically speaking.

"I thought that I'd been hurt before," Mendes begins this pain-laced tale of woe. "But no one's ever left me quite this sore." More details about the precise nature of his heart's wounds follow: "Your words cut deeper than a knife/ … You watch me bleed until I can't breathe." And all that because he's been deprived of his lady's embrace: "And now that I'm without your kisses/I'll be needing stitches."

At first you think he might be able to carry on ("Just like a moth drawn to a flame/Oh, you lured me in/But I know that I'll make it out alive/If I quit calling your my lover"). But maybe that's not really the case: "Shaking, falling to me knees/ … Aching, begging you to come help/ … Gotta get you out of my head/ … Gonna wind up dead."

Did I mention yet that Mendes is just 17?

Obviously, teen popsters have been pining for lost loves for about 70 years now. This kind of hyperventilating romantic hyperbole is hardly new. Nor is it something that should be taken even close to literally.

And yet …

When I hear artists like Shawn suggesting that a breakup is somehow equivalent to death, I also can't help but wonder how an impressionable young fan might process that comparison. Is it possible that the message being sent here pushes a heartbroken adolescent over some sort of edge?

For very young adults who don't have enough perspective to realize that a breakup isn't the end of the world, lines like "Gotta get you out of my head/ … Gonna wind up dead" are recklessly suggestive.

Can Somebody Stop This Ghost From Beating Me?

The video for "Stitches" takes a violently literal approach to the metaphorical wounds Mendes recounts. We see him pull into a deserted parking garage in a vintage Camaro, get out and start walking (while singing, of course). And then the ghostly beatings start, like something out of a Poltergeist movie.

The emotional blows Mendes sings about land invisibly but physically upon his face and body from out of thin air, knocking him down, bloodying his lip, then ramming his head through his car's window, dragging him around and throwing him through a wall.

Told ya it was a like a horror movie.

In the end, he finds himself in a bathroom tending to his lacerations, only to look up in the mirror and see that he's actually just fine.

Nothing but a bad waking dream, apparently.

Kinda like this song.

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