Mending hearts, the world over
Photo: Josiah Van Dien
The age of the lip-synching, headset-wearing pop star is long gone. In an increasingly digital age, fans expect more – not just genuine talent, but also a near-constant insight into the life and times of the objects of their admiration.
Enter Shawn Mendes: the Grammy-nominated singer, pianist and guitar player with two American Music Awards and no fewer than 12 MTV music awards to date, and he is more than willing to fill this role. The Canadian singer, songwriter and performer shot to fame with his debut album, “Handwritten”, in 2015, and has been hailed by many as the next-generation Canadian crooner.
Four years on from his debut album, Mendes has three consecutive number one albums under his belt. At just 20 years old, he is the youngest artist to do so. He was also recently named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people, adding to an already enviably long list of achievements.
Like many before him, Mendes held dreams of becoming an actor, even auditioning for Disney as a child. Those dreams did not manifest – he claimed to have a problem remembering cues – but this is clearly a problem he has overcome, with nearly 40 songs to his name.
After a hugely successful gig in Hong Kong in 2017, this October 13 – seven months into a world tour that began in his hometown of Toronto – he takes to the stage at Macao’s Cotai Arena.
Mendes is known for his songs of love, loss and heartbreak – exactly what you’d expect from an artist whose main audience is lovelorn teens. Born in Canada to English and Portuguese parents, Mendes was a typical 14-year-old with an aboveaverage talent, finding an artistic outlet on the now defunct video hosting service Vine, then later YouTube, with covers of his soon-to-be-counterparts, Britons Adele and Ed Sheeran, and his precocious compatriot Justin Bieber. And after gaining a taste of performing live during a family holiday in Portugal, the rest is history.
It should come as no surprise that among his many sources of inspiration, Mendes cites travel as a fundamental influence. He familiarised himself with life on the road as a support act for Taylor Swift, Austin Mahone and The 1975 on their respective tours. On his third solo world tour, he is travelling to 85 cities in just nine months (with up-and-comer Alessia Cara in support), and he’ll likely be returning home with inspiration for a fourth album.
True to his roots, Mendes re-recorded hit single In My Blood in Portuguese and remixed the track, which was then adopted by the national team for the 2018 football World Cup.
Now, instead of covers, he is not only writing and recording his own chart-topping hits, but collaborating with the who’s who of the music industry. Khalid, Julia Michaels, Camila Cabello and The Vamps are all among recent collaborators. Mendes is also rumoured to be writing with former One Direction member Niall Horan.
Mendes’ trademark tunes are nothing if not earworms. The tracks Treat You Better and Stitches need little introduction; each has over 900 million streams on Spotify to date. His most recent, eponymous album introduces a sound that blends R&B with a heavier, riff-driven rock, all the while retaining the smooth vocals he has come to be known for.
The Guardian’ s recent review of Mendes’ Glasgow gig in April commented on “the unstoppable rise of the clean-cut Canadian”, which “continues with a set of confessional ballads and grand romantic gestures”.
Tweens may be the bulk of his fan base, but the singer’s fan base spans a wide demographic – for example, his recent performance at Queen Elizabeth’s 92nd birthday. Fans also include multiple Grammy award-winner John Mayer, who playfully hailed Mendes as “John Mayer 2.0, without the weird software viruses”.
The young star’s success is reflected in his popularity on social media: he has over 45 million followers on Instagram, and 22 million on Twitter. But ever the old soul, Mendes counts James Dean among his style icons.
Photo: Josiah Van Dien
As he has grown, so too has his musical style. The young starlet’s third record has been celebrated by Rolling Stone magazine as a milestone that “smoothly transitions into grown-up pop”.
The opening track, In My Blood , is a harrowing account of the struggles of anxiety disorder, carefully packaged in a pop-rock package that delivers its powerful message to an overwhelmingly large audience.
“The point of the song is that no matter how long that lasts, you can come out the other end stronger and you come out the other end always,” he told Seventeen magazine.
As with any public figure of his age and ilk, the masses are fixated on Mendes’ personal life. He’s been linked to several A-list celebrities, including model Hailey Baldwin and, most recently, longtime friend and recent collaborator Camila Cabello, with whom he sings a duet on recent single, Senorita . Clearly, questions about his relationships and lifestyle are often the subject of headline news and tabloid fodder. Instead of shying away, Mendes makes the most of his time in the spotlight – he is known equally for his slow-burning ballads as he is for a willingness to engage with fans (he has never been known to turn down a request for a selfie). It’s no wonder then, that he tends to leave a legion of screaming fans in his wake.
But in testament to his talent, the music has and will continue to take centre stage. The singer is making the most of the moment and working tirelessly to leave a lasting legacy with his music.
“It’s literally my biggest fear, to wake up tomorrow and nobody cares,” he said in a recent interview.
After six years in the limelight, Mendes is showing no signs of slowing down, and that’s probably why he has nothing to worry about