REVIEW: ‘Shawn Mendes’ showcases pop singer’s artistry

Rating: 5/5

19-year-old Canadian and former Vine star Shawn Mendes has finally released his third studio album, Shawn Mendes. And it does not disappoint. The 14-track, self-titled album follows the commercial success of sophomore LP Illuminate, which has remained  on the Billboard 200 chart for 32 weeks since its release in 2016.

Since launching his career in 2014, the young artist has set high stakes for himself. Shawn Mendes is a pivotal determinant of Mendes’ ability to successfully transition from teen pop sensation to career artist, as noted by Variety. On his third record,  the “Treat You Better” singer collaborated with a number of other artists — including Ed Sheeran and Khalid — to help bring his artistry to the next level.

Prior to its release, Mendes released five singles,  which were met with positive reactions. The radio hits stood out with their diverse style, compared to his previous singles. “Nervous” mixes his oft-utilized boy-in-love persona with a funky beat, which some say is reminiscent of Selena’ Gomez’s “Bad Liar.” On the other hand, “Lost in Japan” is a fun, upbeat — and addictive — track that features heavy pop sounds.

“In My Blood,” the eponymous album’s lead single, is, however, the testament to Mendes’ growth as an artist since his debut Handwritten.  With a rock-heavy sound and lyrics like, “Sometimes I feel like giving up / But I just can’t / It isn’t in my blood,” Mendes opens up about his battles with anxiety and his ambivalence toward his transition from adolescence to adulthood. The range of talent was demonstrated within the first few tracks, drawing a picture of not just a boy with a guitar, but also of an artist ready to stake his claim on the music industry.

Mendes began his career as a Vine star before transitioning to the music industry. Photo courtesy of Island Records.

“Youth,” featuring R&B star Khalid, is another important point of maturity on the album. With sonic influences similar to those on Khalid’s American Teen, Mendes and Khalid sing about viewing tragedy through the lens of the younger generation, a crucial deviation from his other relationship-centric tracks.

Mendes sought John Mayer’s assistance on “Like To Be You,” a saccharine duet with Julia Michaels. The track pairs  simple acoustics with the dynamic between Mendes’ and Michaels’ voices to strike an emotional chord. “Where Were You in the Morning?” — which Mendes performed with Mayer live — draws inspiration from Mayer’s soft rock sound with a mellow beat and dreamy chords.

Mendes, who  cited Justin Timberlake as a major influence in an interview with Billboard, uses a dramatic falsetto on “Why” and “Mutual.” With the lyrics, “You say, you want all of me today / But tomorrow’s not the same / My feelings never change / What do you want from me,” Mendes addresses the intricate emotional complexities of relationships, a marked departure from his former focus on surface-level infatuation.

On “Because I Had You,” Mendes collaborates with OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder to combine Tedder’s knack for lyricism with his traditional acoustics. And on “Particular Taste,” Tedder brings a new, rhythmic vibe previously unheard in Mendes’ older music.

Ed Sheeran, a master of romanticism and acoustics, assisted Mendes with writing “Fallin’ All in You,” a light and rhythmic song about the beauty of falling in love and the the emotional impact of having a significant other. “Queen” takes the same approach, except, alternatively, Mendes highlights how easily two people can go from enjoying a deep emotional connection to acting like strangers.

The album closes with “Perfectly Wrong” and “When You’re Ready,” two tracks that remind listeners of the young Mendes they fell in love with in the first place. On an album filled with so many new sounds and complexities, Mendes’ decision to end with “When You’re Ready” demonstrates that Mendes will continue to remain true to himself while growing as an artist.

Ultimately, Shawn Mendes explores a variety of topics that he holds dear. While there may not be standouts like “Stitches,” “Treat You Better” or “Mercy,” the eponymous album relies on a more collectively consistent sound, which speaks to a serious artist capable of producing more than just a fleeting sensational hit.