TORONTO — Shawn Mendes is slowly letting the world capture a glimpse of his soul.
While the Peterborough, Ont.-raised pop singer has gained millions of fans singing about crushes and breakups, it’s his new album that carries a number of fresh revelations.
Mendes grapples with anxiety, a couple of feisty relationships and rejects a world that seemingly wants to foster more hate. It’s deep stuff to write about at 19 years old.
With his self-titled third album, due Friday, Mendes is growing into a maturity that seems to acknowledge the responsibilities he and his generation are expected to shoulder between the good times and heartbreak.
The musician plays a number of Canadian dates this year, including Ottawa’s Bluesfest (July 7), Festival D’ete de Quebec (July 8) and the Cavendish Beach Music Festival in P.E.I. (July 9). He’ll also embark on a European and North American tour next March that brings him back to Canada in summer 2019.
Here’s a look at five standout songs on “Shawn Mendes” that signal where he’s headed:
“In My Blood” — Mendes opens with a song about crippling anxiety and the struggle to overcome emotional detachment. He sings about turning to alcohol and women, but finds neither is the cure. The lyrics are based on his own experience after being slammed with an unexpected bout of depression last year, he’s said in recent interviews. While Mendes doesn’t find a clear solution to his problems in the song, he does persevere. “Sometimes I feel like giving up, but I just can’t,” he sings. “It isn’t in my blood.”
“Particular Taste” — Watch out Justin Timberlake, because Mendes is cornering the market on falsettos with sexy basslines. On this funky booty-shaker he recalls an experience with a woman who clearly knows what she likes. “She’ll take your name and number, and she’ll hit erase and walk away,” he purrs. “But she’s so specific when she’s at my place.”
“Queen” — Same woman, different chapter? Mendes doesn’t show all of his cards, but it’s clear some of these relationships could use some decoding on a Taylor Swift level. With this song it appears whatever love once existed with this unnamed woman has soured. “It’s hard to believe you don’t remember me at all,” Mendes sings. “Making beautiful look ugly. You ain’t the ruler of no country. Who made you the queen?”
“Youth” — Sharing almost equal vocal time with R&B singer Khalid helps this Mendes song carry a powerful message of unity in troubled times. The lyrical concept formed in the wake of the Manchester concert bombing and terror attack on London Bridge, Mendes has recently said. He texted Khalid saying he wanted to write a statement for his generation. “Pain, but I won’t let it turn into hate. No, I won’t let it change me,” the two sing together. “Never losing sight of the one I keep inside.”
“Because I Had You” — While Mendes and his frequent songwriting collaborators Teddy Geiger, Scott Harris and Geoff Warburton take many daring turns on this album, this ballad of a broken heart proves the singer isn’t planning to go rogue on his fans. “You’re with somebody I can’t be,” he sings. “But I can tell that you’re happy. It’s time for me to finally meet somebody new, take her to all the places that I took us to.” Somebody give this guy a hug.