Song lyrics – Shawn Mendes – Stitches

Shawn Mendes live in concert (cropped) by Josiah VanDien licensed CC BY SA 4.0

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Hello and welcome to Learn English Vocabulary. My name is Jack and I’m making this podcast for you to learn or revise English vocabulary. You can find a transcript of this podcast on LearnEnglishVocabulary.co.uk. There’s a page for this podcast with the transcript, an activity and a task for you to do in the comments section.

Introduction

Today, I want to talk about the lyrics to a song called Stitches by the Canadian singer Shawn Mendes. This podcast was requested by Christian from Germany. I’m going to be honest with you, Christian, I had never heard of Shawn Mendes before looking him up to write this podcast, but I’m afraid that says far more about me than it does Shawn Mendes. 

Normally, I would save this sort of lesson for a higher level podcast, but I think that most of the language in this song is appropriate to look at in a B1 Intermediate podcast. 

I’m going to go through the song line by line, looking at the most interesting words and phrases and trying to explain what I think the song means.

The title: Stitches

Let’s start with the title stitches. I’m a bit embarrassed because the Cambridge learners dictionary actually labels the word stitches C2 so …. it’s a bit more advanced than I reckoned. A stitch is where two pieces of cloth are held together with thread. It’s what you do when you are sewing. You need a needle which is a tiny sharp thin piece of metal with a little hole at the end. You thread some cotton through the needle and then you use the pointy end to stab through two pieces of cloth and then pull the thread through so you can use the thread to hold the pieces together. 

As well as sewing cloth together with stitches, you can sew up a wound with stitches. So when I was younger, my cat split my lip open and I needed two stitches to hold the skin together so it could heal. If you have an operation, at the end of the operation, the doctor will sew up the hole they made to do the operation. It is these sort of stitches that Shawn Mendes is singing about.

The first verse

Let’s look at the first verse:  

I thought that I’d been hurt before

But no one’s ever left me quite this sore

Your words cut deeper than a knife

Now I need someone to breathe me back to life

From an English teacher’s point of view, this first line is great. A past perfect in the passive voice. I thought, an event or situation in the past, that I’d been hurt before – an event even further in the past than the first event. Fantastic. As for the vocabulary, to be hurt means to have experienced pain because of what someone else did. It could have been an accident. Were you hurt in the accident. The verb hurt is almost always used in the passive. In the song, the implication is that Shawn had been emotionally hurt by someone, probably a romantic partner. 

To be left sore

This first line is just setting up the second line. I thought that I’d been hurt before, but I was wrong. Oh no, that was nothing. He sings: no one’s ever left me quite this sore. To leave someone some way means to leave someone in a specific situation. You might hear I can’t believe they left you like this. Shawn sings that no one has ever left him quite this sore. Sore means painful because of an injury or infection or because you have done something too much. 

I played football at the weekend and my legs are really sore today.

It can also be a type of injury, usually caused by your skin rubbing against something or been damaged so that it hurts when you touch it. Some viruses and bug bites can leave you with sores.   

There is another use and I think that’s what Shawn Mendes means. You might feel sore if you are angry because you feel you have been treated badly. So you might hear someone say, I can’t believe you’re still sore about that, I didn’t mean to upset you. Still, it’s a strange choice of lyric to use to talk about a romantic relationship. 

Words cut deeper than a knife

Your words cut deeper than a knife. This is quite a cliched expression. You can find it in lots of songs and poems. It means words can hurt someone more than a knife can. This really depends on the person saying the words. Even then, I think I disagree. Can you imagine a torture scene from a film? What will the torturer use? The scalpel, the razorblade, the dagger … or words? Erm … words, please?

I’m sure that if someone I really love said horrible things to me I would feel awful, but I think I’d still choose words over a knife. I’m not very romantic, though.

Breathe me back to life

Now I need someone to breathe me back to life. To breathe someone back to life is not a strong collocation. In films and books, you hear about people being brought back to life. Jesus brought Lazarus back to life in the Bible 

Let’s move on to the next part of the song.

Got a feeling that I’m going under

But I know that I’ll make it out alive

If I quit calling you my lover

Going under

To go under is most commonly used to talk about businesses that fail. When a business doesn’t work and the directors have to shut the business down, you can say that the business went under. You can use it to talk about more generally to mean to be destroyed or defeated, but it’s not common. It also has a connotation of drowning. You can go underwater. If someone goes under during a boating accident, it would be taken to mean that they had drowned, that they had literally gone under the water. 

To make it out alive

I’ll make it out means I will succeed in leaving or getting past this situation. To make it somewhere is a common way to say arrive. What time do you think you’ll make it here? I’m making good time, I should make it to yours by 8. To make it out means to escape. It’s usually used to talk about getting away from a bad situation. I didn’t think I was going to make it out of there. To make it out alive means to survive. I think it’s most commonly used to talk about serious car accidents where people survive. You were very lucky to make it out alive. 

To quit

Shawn Mendes sings that he knows that he will survive if he quits calling you his lover. To quit something means to stop doing something. We often use it to talk about bad habits. I quit smoking over 10 years ago. So he’s really saying that he has to end the relationship or he may not make it out alive.

Move on

The next line is move on which is a phrasal verb. It has several meanings. It can mean leave where you are now and go somewhere else. For example: I’ve lived here for a few years now and I think it’s time that I move on. You sometimes hear police officers saying it when there’s some sort of disturbance. There’s nothing to see here, move on. In the song, however, it means to accept or come to terms with or understand a sad or difficult situation and be ready to change your life, to adjust to the new situation. So, you often hear it when a relationship breaks up. If one of the partners doesn’t want the relationship to break up, they might refuse to accept that it’s over. Their friends might say, come on mate, it’s been three weeks, you’ve got to move on. It’s quite a tough thing to tell someone and I’m not sure if Shawn Mendes is singing it to himself or his partner. 

The chorus

The chorus is straight forward.

You watch me bleed until I can’t breathe

I’m shaking, falling onto my knees

And now that I’m without your kisses

I’ll be needing stitches

To bleed

To bleed means to leak blood out of a wound. I got a leech on me once – like a little water slug that drinks blood. I rode my motorbike through a stream and it got in my shoe. When I took it off, it bled and bled. I bled all over the floor of this little restaurant. It was very embarrassing. 

Future continuous

The last line is interesting grammatically more than for the vocabulary, but I think I can talk about it a bit. I’ll be needing stitches. Not I’ll need stitches. We use the future continuous to talk about things that are scheduled or arranged and we have no control over. There is something inevitable or unavoidable about it. You can use it as a regular continuous form with specific time clauses. Tomorrow at 3, Wednesday at lunchtime or this time tomorrow, this time next week.  We use it to talk about our holiday plans. This time next week, we’ll be sitting on a beach in Corfu. But when there’s no time clause, it implies that an event can not be avoided. There is nothing Shawn Mendes can do. He is going to have to get stitches or rather, metaphorically, because his injuries are ones caused by words and not actually knives.

I should have stuck to the vocabulary as this podcast is getting a bit long now. 

The next part of the chorus is:

Tripping over myself

Aching, begging you to come help

And now that I’m without your kisses

I’ll be needing stitches

To trip

To trip over something means to fall because you knocked your foot against something. My kids like to play with their toys on the stairs and I am always afraid that I will trip up and fall down because I don’t see a cuddly toy or car or something.

Aching

Aching; this is another type of pain. It is a continuous pain that’s not that strong. I think most commonly, you get toothaches, headaches and backaches. If I spend too long in front of my computer without a break, I can get a bit of a headache and if I don’t remember to get up and move around, I can get a terrible backache.

The last verse

In the next verse we hear:

Just like a moth drawn to a flame

Oh, you lured me in I couldn’t sense the pain

Your bitter heart cold to the touch

Now I’m gonna reap what I sow

I’m left seeing red on my own

A moth drawn to a flame

There’s a lot of language here. Like a moth drawn to a flame is a cliched expression that means I was so attracted to something that I went straight towards it. A moth is like a little night butterfly. They always fly towards lights. I think it has something to do with the moon. Anyhow, if you leave your bathroom light on and the window open in the summer in the UK, you will end up with loads of moths in your house. My cat used to hunt them.

Lure 

You lured me in. I like the word lure. It’s got a strange pronunciation as you have to move from a l sound to a y sound. It’s quite an advanced word. The verb means to persuade someone to do something with the promise of something exciting. It has slightly negative or even evil connotations – shops might try to lure customers into their stores with the promise of a prize, that they will never actually see. Murderers lure their victims.

Bitter

Bitter can be used to describe a sharp unpleasant taste – some bitter tastes are quite pleasant, but they are not for everyone. A bitter person or bitter heart i s full of hatred and anger because of something that happened in the past. Earlier I spoke about the word sore, bitter is very similar but much stronger. 

Reap what you sow

To reap what you sow is another cliched expression that you hear a lot. It comes from farming. The literal meaning is: reap or harvest crops that you sow or plant. So if a farmer plants potatoes, then later, he or she will be able to reap potatoes. The expression means you will get what you deserve. So in the song, Shawn recognises that getting involved with his partner was a silly thing to do, but he was lured in and now he deserves to be in this bad situation. 

To see red

The last line that I’m going to look at has another common expression. I’m left seeing red. Seeing red means being very angry. I was so angry, I was seeing red. Sometimes we call it the red mist. When you get really angry, everything you look at makes you even angrier because you are looking through the red mist.

Conclusion

I have to stop here because I’ve covered almost everything and this is really long. I will embed the video for this song and put a language activity on the page for this podcast on Learn English Vocabulary.co.uk.

Thanks, Christian for recommending this song. I hope this has helped you understand the lyrics and that you enjoy the song, even more, when you listen to it next. 

If you have enjoyed this podcast, please leave me a comment or a rating or a review. I love to hear from you and any comments or suggestions you have. If there are any topics or songs or scenes from a film that you would like me to talk about or anything else you would like to hear, I would be delighted to make a podcast for you. So please visit LearnEnglishVocabulary.co.uk and say hello.

Thanks for listening.

Listen to the song

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3 Comments

  • brian
    Posted 22/11/2020 at 5:28 pm 0Likes

    can you make podcast about song history by one direction. i love one direction from UK

  • Christian Suhr
    Posted 24/11/2020 at 8:11 am 0Likes

    Hey Jack, thanks for discussing the song. It did help my understanding of the lyrics and moreover will I now remember the words way better, when I listen to the song.
    Actually, here in Germany you hear Shawn Mendes quite frequently on the radio. That’s why I reckoned he’d be known in the UK as well.
    Anyway, thank you. Keep it up!

    • Ulfakin
      Posted 09/08/2021 at 5:24 pm 0Likes

      Hey Jack, thanks for your podcast. Now i’m knowing the lyrics mean and i learn some new vocabulary too i’ve never known the means before. Keep it up!

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