Lyrics Uncovered: Brett Young, ‘Mercy’
Just about everyone can connect to a heartbreak song. Brett Young's "Mercy" lyrics hurt with the best of 'em and prove that theory. The song is a harrowing ballad that he uses to identify heartbreak in a way that many people, including himself, have experienced.
Young says the story is similar to another track, "Left Side of Leaving," because it's told from the perspective of the person who is left with a broken heart at the end of a relationship. But "Mercy" goes deeper, portraying someone so wounded not only by the impending breakup, but the interval of time before the ax hits, because they're anticipating the inevitable heartache.
"Breakups are uneven," Young explains of the "Mercy" lyrics, "So the person that was ready for it, prepared for it, is doing fine immediately after it. That person's the one checking in to want to have coffee two weeks later and you're getting that text going, 'Can you just leave me alone so I can heal?' I've been through that."
Young and co-writer Sean McConnell were aiming for an uptempo hit when they met for the first time to write, but they came out on the other side with a "gut-wrenching heart break song" instead. Young explains that they didn't dive deep into personal experience for the song, but rather based it on the concept of someone on the bad end of a breakup. McConnell happened to be strumming guitar while they were discussing ideas, and Young's ear was taken to the melody he was playing. From there, the "Mercy" song lyrics flowed.
"It happened really quickly. I don't even remember the word 'mercy' being uttered, I just remember when it happened, that chorus came out super quick and I think it kind of wrote itself," McConnell recalls.
"The reason I don't think it was specifically personal, and by that I mean it wasn't about any one specific situation, is because I think every relationship there's one person feeling that way," adds Young. The singer knows what it's like to come out of a meaningful relationship feeling hurt, and he realizes that others have been in that position, too. Their hypothesis while writing the song was correct. The song is so relatable, in fact, that before "Mercy" was released to radio, fans were chanting for it during Young's live show.
"I'm always on the over-emotional side of a relationship. If I decide to be in, I'm all the way in, so if it ends, I'm all the way crushed. I think we both realized that that concept was going to relate to a lot of people," Young says of a song that leaves many details of the relationship.
Both writers agree the chorus is the heart of the song. "I feel like the whole chorus 'if you're gonna break my heart, just break it,' — just get it over with — we've all felt that way," McConnell says. "I think the simplicity of every line of that song is the beauty of it."
Young feels the final two lines of the chorus are the song's defining moment, as if the person on the receiving end of the breakup is trying to deflect their pain onto the person breaking their heart. "I feel like the last two lines is kind of fighting dirty too: 'If you ever loved me,' it's like — if that's not a guilt trip to the person that's hearing that — 'if you ever loved me, have mercy,' it's like you're questioning if they were ever in it at all," Young analyzes. "I feel like that's the person that got hurt in a relationship taking a cheap shot to get them to stop. 'If you ever loved me' — that gets me every time."
"Mercy" almost didn't make Young's debut album because it was already heavy with ballads like "Like I Loved You" and "In Case You Didn't Know." But it was important to include.
"'Mercy' was the one that came from a place that I was really at in my life," the RISERS star reflects. "I think it was a really significant song for this record to close with."
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