Mainstream music these days often sounds … the same. Hence, the word mainstream. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy music of all sorts, but that doesn’t mean that it’s all deep and original. And apparently I’m not alone in thinking this.
With his new digital single, “In My Blood,” Shawn Mendes says that his goal was to make something real, something raw: “The only way we’re going to step up … and get better … is if it’s more honest,” he said of this song, “Like, how raw can we get?”
And this song is raw. Released a little over a week ago, this No. 1 iTunes hit expresses Mendes’ personal battle with loneliness, anxiety and depression. But even during the times that he’s contemplated throwing in the towel of life, Mendes says he always comes back to the realization that giving up is not a part of who he is.
That sounds pretty meaningful to me.
Mendes calls for help as anxiety creeps in during the very first verse: “Help me, it’s like the walls are caving in.” He then says that he’s “laying on the bathroom floor, feeling nothing/ … Looking through my phone again feeling anxious/Afraid to be alone again.”
Obviously, he’s in a pretty dark emotional space. No matter what he does, he still feels “overwhelmed and insecure,” just looking for anything “to ease my mind slowly.”
Mendes considers two options for dulling that pain and fear: “Just have a drink and you’ll feel better/Just take her home and you’ll feel better.” But he wisely seems to know that alcohol and casual sex aren’t going to help: “No medicine is strong enough … /I’m crawling in my skin.”
Mendes admits, “Sometimes I feel like giving up.” But then he adds, “I just can’t.” Because he is a fighter, he declares that no matter how low he may feel, giving up “isn’t in my blood.”
Mendes isn’t alone in his struggle. Many recent studies have shown that this generation is experiencing unprecedented levels of anxiety, depression and loneliness. Some experts are attributing these struggles at least in part to technology addiction. What promises to connect us ends up, ironically, making us feel more isolated. Mendes says exactly that in the second verse: “I’m looking through my phone again feeling anxious/Afraid to be alone again, I hate this.” Likes and comments and texts obviously aren’t getting the job done for him.
This is a growing problem. But the song gets at more than just technology. Mendes is talking about something intrinsic. There’s something that he needs that can’t be found in the material world.
And this is the common thread that we all share: We’re all searching for something. We’re all broken people on the same road. Mendes identifies two potential “painkillers” for those who walk that lonely road: alcohol and promiscuity. But he knows those temporary “fixes” will only mask the deeper ache inside. And though he can’t quite figure out what to do, he admirably knows that giving up is not an option, either.
Mendes may not realize it, but he’s longing for salvation. And even if he’s not quite reaching for God in this song, he’s certainly aware of his need for something bigger than himself, and he’s recognizing that what the culture offers to fill the void inside isn’t working.
That’s ultimately a redemptive realization—even if it is indeed a raw one.
Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, loving raising their little guy, Judah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).