The Stories Behind Your Favourite iHeartRadio MMVAs Performers’ Tracks
The 2018 iHeartRadio MMVAs features an all-star roster with performances by Shawn Mendes, Halsey, 5 Seconds of Summer, Meghan Trainor, Alessia Cara, Kris Wu, and Marshmello featuring Anne Marie. Undoubtedly, you could pick a song by any of the acts and fluently rehearse the chorus—they’ve all dropped contagiously catchy tunes with acclaimed radio play. But we owe it to them for more than providing for our Instagram captions. The multi-talented iHeartRadio MMVAs collective get credit for both penning and performing some of their biggest hits.
Top tracks are #relateable for a reason. These singer-songwriters have created music they’ve felt represents their personal experiences and could resonate with audiences. In case you’ve always wanted to tattoo lyrics or just understand the artist’s explanation of their work, here are the real meanings behind your favourite songs.
Shawn Mendes – “In My Blood”
“In My Blood” was the lead single from Mendes’ third studio album, self-titled Shawn Mendes. The 19-year-old debuted a new sound that was more mature and vulnerable than preceding tracks. Mendes intended for “In My Blood”’s production be reminiscent of Kings of Leon. Approaching lyricism with more transparency, he affirmed it as “the closest song to my heart that I’ve ever written” in an Instagram announcement.
Mendes discussed the track and his darker introspection with Beats 1 host Zane Lowe. “It was kind of something that hit me last year. Growing up, I was a pretty calm kid. I knew people who suffered from anxiety and found it kind of hard to understand, but then when it’s you, you’re like ‘Oh my God, what is this? This is crazy,” said Mendes. “That song is complete truth and the best thing about it is, it’s not all down. The whole reason I wrote this song was to be like at the end, ‘It’s not in my blood to do that.’”
Halsey – “Bad At Love”
“Bad At Love” appears on Halsey’s sophomore album and five-part cinematic series hopeless fountain kingdom. The upbeat melody contrasts a melancholic story where she outlines her past lovers and their relationship woes. The synth-pop singer collaborated with long-time producer Ricky Reed. She described wanting the song’s vibe to commemorate Leonardo Dicaprio’s portrayal in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet, “in a Hawaiian t-shirt, in a drop top low convertible car, driving down the highway just youthful and reckless.”
The lyrics were inspired by a tale as old as time: a breakup aftermath accompanied by chick flick marathons and ice cream binges. Halsey told Billboard about how she turned her heartache into inspiration. “I found this old box of mementos that was kind of like old relationships I’d been with. And going through one by one in my head, thinking about each relationship and what I did to fuck it up,” she admitted. The singer-songwriter reiterated the lyrics, “The whole song is about me being bad at love, but you can’t blame me for trying.”
Meghan Trainor – “No Excuses”
“No Excuses” adds to Meghan Trainor’s streak of infectious self-empowerment anthems. The high-energy pop single is off of upcoming LP Treat Myself set to drop August 31. If the feel-good feels are familiar, it’s because the song aimed at Aretha Franklin vibes. Trainor told Genius, “’How can I write about respect?’ Like a modern-day version of ‘R-E-S-P-E-C-T.’ How can I bring that back and not sound cheesy, angry, and mean?”
The bonafide jam had conscious timing and focuses on demanding respect regardless of your age or gender. Analyzing the lyrics, Trainor explained the song was prompted by her experiences in the industry where she’s encountered mansplaining and disrespect. “This song was very much my big anthem, but I also think it was perfect for the time right now for the #MeToo movement and Time’s up. It just is so perfect and I really believe it’s what the world needs right now.”
5 Seconds of Summer – “Want You Back”
“Want You Back” served as 5 Second of Summer’s comeback track that introduced their reinvented sound on Youngblood. Retiring from post pop punk, they pivoted toward pop and alt-rock influences. “Want You Back” is no exception as drummer and vocalist Ashton Irwin claimed it was inspired by The 1975’s “Somebody Else.”
“Want You Back” conveys swallowing your pride to admit longing, but the track is actually more dignified than it seems. 5 Seconds of Summer told Beats Radio 1, “’Want You Back’ articulates the band we were, we are now, and what we’re going to be. That’s why we like it and why we picked it.” The song was approached more personally in its process, having collaborated with close friend and producer Andrew Goldstein. On working within their everyday circle, 5SOS furthered, “We committed to their talents and they committed to us, just out of speaking about what we dream of doing and what we want to become as a band. [‘Want You Back’] is heartfelt one for us because it’s coming straight from home.”
— Punk Rock Updates (@5SOSWWReports) February 23, 2018
Alessia Cara – “Growing Pains”
Alessia Cara explores coming of age on “Growing Pains” off her highly anticipated album The Pains of Growing. Breaking into the industry at the age of 18 and facing unwarranted scrutiny for a deserved Grammy win, Cara knows the trials of growing up too fast all too well. “Being 21-years-old as a woman, that already is a lot of stuff happening, but to add on to that I was thrown into this new circumstance that I wasn’t familiar with,” Cara expressed to Genius. But the singer’s expedited growth has lent for learning experience. “Those two things mixed together was how I was feeling and I needed to get it out in some way and so I just wrote “Growing Pains.”
“Growing Pains” also alludes to puberty. Cara poked fun at her brother, mentioning that a conversation between them motivated the song title.
Marshmello & Anne-Marie – FRIENDS
The collaborative duo go way back as friends—as far as 2016 when Marshmello remixed Anne-Marie’s first ever single “Alarm.” Anne-Marie expressed to Genius that she thought working together would be unlikely as she’s native to the U.K. and Marshmello, the U.S. The pair managed to unite and come up with a smash hit.
Although “FRIENDS” isn’t as amicable as you’d think, it’s an explicit friendzone anthem. Anne-Marie doesn’t get any more obvious, spelling out her past experiences and the literal word ‘friends’ in the lyrics.
“This whole situation was about my friend who I’ve been friends with since I was young and it’s like fancying your sister, this is weird,” she shared. The British pop singer revealed that she’s more about tongue-in-cheek banter than French kissing her friends. “It was a sad thing for me, but then it got to the point of what the fuck else am I supposed to do? Get a fat banner on an airplane and fly across some—you know where people normally propose?”
The 2018 iHeartRadio MMVAs hosted by Awkwafina and go down Sunday, August 26 at 9/7MT on CTV and Much.