For the six past weeks we’ve had at Number 1 in the UK Singles Chart a precocious Canadian heartthrob with an acoustic track about love gone wrong. And now, well, that’s what we’ve got again, albeit with a different Canuck with a different song. After eight of the past nine weeks comfortably enjoying the Number 1 spot, quite deservedly, with Love Yourself, perhaps it’s about time for Justin Bieber to let a fellow countrymate have a go. Perhaps it will be a welcome change. Or perhaps not.
Stitches by Shawn Mendes is a sorry case of songwriting by numbers, bland and trite in every respect; the definition of what I like to call the “boring acoustic” genre. But while Ed Sheeran and Passenger and the other bastions of boring acoustic display at least a pretence of emotion, flare, or creativity, Stitches is so safe and plain that if it were any more lacking in character or thought it would probably just spontaneously cease to exist. The strummed chords which are cycled again and again as predictably as the days of the week are the most commonly used chords in all of pop music (G F Am C, if you’re interested). The vocals are so layered and compressed in the chorus that any personality or emotion that may have been present are sapped out. The lyrics aren’t bad enough to be ridiculed or criticised, but not good enough to evoke any emotional response: something about Shawn once having a girlfriend and now not having a girlfriend? Sad times, huh?
Perhaps what’s most noteworthy about this track is that it was released thirty-eight weeks ago (!?) yet has only in the past six reached the Top 40, bucking the trend that most UK Number 1’s debut at the top spot. I can only guess that he’s managed to achieve a number one with such a (relatively) old song through his label tactically anticipating the lull in single releases around this time of year and proceeding to throw money at promoting the song (YouTube ads, radio play, etc). In this sense, the UK Singles Charts is a farce, and everyone knows it.
It’s a bit like American politics. Sure, Mr soon-to-be-God-help-us-President Trump may get the most votes, the most well attended rallies, the most airtime, but its because he’s got the most financial welly behind him. No one, deep down, really believes he’s the best guy around, he’s just the one that’s always there, on your TV, YouTube, on the radio. Not to imply Shawn Mendes is similar in any personal respects to Donald, necessarily. As far as I know he’s not a plutocratic racist old man with presidential ambitions. However, what I am implying is that just because Stitches topped the UK Singles Chart, it doesn’t mean it’s not crap, it doesn’t mean that we don’t deserve better.