Under The Hood Of Shawn Mendes' New Album

"Shawn Mendes wasn’t born and raised in the Toronto suburbs, he might’ve been tank-grown in an underground lab at a major label’s behest. He’s a genial, grounded young performer with a body “somewhere between fitness model and party trick”—John Mayer’s words, not mine—and a deep passion for adult contemporary pop-rock. He takes hundreds of pictures with fans in a single sitting without batting an eye. And when you hear hit singles like “Stitches” and “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back,” it’s like you’re watching the cutest counsellor at your summer camp grab an acoustic guitar and surprise a horde of pre-teens with his heavenly pipes.

"Mendes’ path to upper-echelon stardom began with jaunty covers of mid-’10s hits on Vine, and his first two albums—2015’s boyish Handwritten and a more muscular 2016 follow-up, Illuminate—channeled inoffensive, mercenary songwriters working in the same vein: Mayer, Ed Sheeran, Jason Mraz. Shawn Mendes, his third and most ambitious full-length, breaks the mould by suggesting alternative paths Mendes might walk. The guitar is still the focal point of his attack, whether it’s vigorously strummed (anthemic lead single “In My Blood”) or ever-so-gently picked. But he dips a toe into modern pop with help from expert collaborators like Julia Michaels and Ryan Tedder on “Nervous” and “Particular Taste,” and he dirties up his goody-two-shoes with a handful of smoldering, grown-and-sexy dalliances.

"The songs in the latter category capture Mendes at his most engaging and mature; you hear them and understand why Mayer told Zane Lowe that Mendes is “John Mayer 2.0, without the weird software viruses.” Sublime single “Lost in Japan” is air-fried pop-funk, light and crispy with just a whisper of grease. It uses Mendes’ youth and fame to his advantage: It’s not hard to imagine him—rich, horny, and unoccupied—chartering a jet into Tokyo for a quick hookup and a stroll through the cherry blossoms..."

Excerpted from Jamieson Cox's review of Shawn Mendes' eponymously-titled third album, as published by Pitchfork.

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