I'm Clifford Stumme, and I use literary analysis and research to explain the deeper meanings of pop songs. Feel free to leave a comment or to email me at with questions or ideas!

What does "Ruin" by Shawn Mendes mean?

What does "Ruin" by Shawn Mendes mean?

What does "Ruin" by Shawn Mendes mean?

I'll be honest that I'm not the biggest Shawn Mendes fan. "Stitches" was a little bit weird: If she was the one hurting him, how does being away from her mean he'll need more stitches? And I haven't listened to much else by him though I do know that he's supposed to be the new "rival" to Justin Bieber--both from Canada and both heartthrob, teenage types. But I want to be open-minded and know that I haven't listened to enough of him to be able to accurately judge. I decided to give "Ruin" a chance, and I'm going to explain it.

First Listen Through

After only hearing it once, I think that "Ruin" is a decent sounding song. I really like the bluesy melody and the amazing things Mendes can do with his voice. The simplistic instrument choices, and his powerful voice make it beautiful sounding.

The lyrics I'm not very impressed with yet, and will need to do more thorough analysis (coming up!) before I understand them better, but "Ruin" sounds like a run-of-the-mill breakup song with little inspiration. But maybe that's okay since the emotion in his voice and guitar are what really make this song unique.

The Meaning of the Lyrics

Verse 1

In the first verse, Shawn Mendes asks three questions: "do you think about me? / . . . do you feel the same way, babe? / . . . do you remember how we felt?" He wants to know if his girlfriend (see: "babe") is sorry that she broke up with him, and he wants her back. In answer to his last question, he says, "Cause I do, so listen to me baby," and begins the chorus.


In the chorus of "Ruin," Mendes croons, "And I'm not try'na' ruin your happiness / But, darling, don't you know that I'm the only one for you." He repeats these lines to emphasize his opinion that they belong together. He understands that she may perceive his insistence as annoying or an attempt to make her feel bad about the choices she made, but he persists and saying that they belong together.

Verse 2

The second verse is almost word-for-word the same as the first verse.


In the bridge, Mendes repeats the question, "Do I ever cross your mind?" He wants to know if there's any chance at all that they'll get back together.


The outro is  a mish-mash of lyrics from the bridge and chorus, further intensifying and repeating Mendes's questions and perhaps displaying the way he's obsessing over the answer to this question himself.

Deeper thoughts on the meaning of "Ruin" by Shawn Mendes

Actually, I maybe should amend that subtitle (but that's what this section is called, so it stays). I don't have many deeper thoughts on this song because there's not a lot to go on. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. This song still tells us a few statements we can identify and evaluate:

  • A relationship can be worth obsessing over.
  • Even if someone wants you to stop bothering him or her, there are situations in which you can keep pursuing him or her.
  • It's legitimate to tell someone else that you are the only person for him or her.

These are a few of the premises (or basic, inner beliefs) that Shawn Mendes has to hold to be able to sing this song. The first one I agree with, the second I would be careful with but do agree with, and the third one (coming from my nit-picky perspective) is wrong, not least because it's completely unverifiable and operates only on the rationality wild emotions can provide (which is little).

As with any song, there's something to be learned in Shawn Mendes's "Ruin." The lesson here may be "How to Analyze a Lyrically Shallow Song," but it's a lesson nevertheless. If you learned anything from this song or if the music/lyrics made you feel something, please share. I'd love to discuss it with you !

Helpful Resources

Why aren't our personal interpretations of songs good enough?

Why aren't our personal interpretations of songs good enough?

3 Reasons We Should Care about Song Meanings

3 Reasons We Should Care about Song Meanings