Not even a year after the release of his debut album ‘Handwritten’, Shawn Mendes has conjured up a fresh batch of heart-melting ballads. Whether it’s falling in love, breaking up, or growing up, Mendes pretty much covers all the bases in this brand new 14 track record ‘Illuminate’. 

Mendes experienced a very “Justin Bieber-esque” rise to fame. At the spritely age of 15, he began stealing millions of hearts via social media by posting six-second clips of song covers on Vine. It wasn’t long before he caught the attention of artist manager Andrew Gertier and was signed to Island Records. The rest is quite literally history, as he was the youngest artist ever to reach the top 25 on Billboard’s Hot 100.

A few years older and clearly, a few more experiences wiser, Mendes takes on a sound that is a bit more mature than what he’d originally introduced to the world. In ‘Handwritten’, Mendes blatantly proved that he had an insane amount of raw talent both instrumentally and vocally, however, ‘Illuminate’ seems to give off much more of a “wow” factor as it exudes power and emotion in and between every lyric. Conviction, passion, and soul radiate off of the melodies as well as off of the artists very vocal chords, capturing an all too familiar tale of falling in love, heartbreak, and the ever-present confusion of growing up.

Mendes kicks off the album with ‘Ruin’, a love song that shows off a new and perfected blues sound to his music that usually tends to be stereotypically and absent-mindedly categorized as pop.  Next in the running is ‘Mercy’, displaying a similar sound to ‘Ruin’ but kicking up the tempo in a fiery, desperate plea for, well, mercy. These blues/rock qualities are embedded throughout the entire album, defining the more sculpted sound that Mendes has grown into. 

After introducing his new and exciting style, Mendes stays true to form with the album’s single ‘Treat You Better’, a more upbeat tune paired with more of what he does best; a voice like honey and romantic lyrics that’ll tug on anyone’s heartstrings. He slows it down after ‘Treat You Better’ with a few more of his signature “swoon-worthy” songs, such as ‘Three Empty Words’, ‘Don’t Be a Fool’, and ‘Like This’, which can only be described as sweet and sincere complete with soft acoustic guitars and piano melodies that intertwine seamlessly with soulful and pure vocals. 

Towards the end of the track list, Mendes strays from his general theme of young love and introduces the concept of getting older with the songs ‘Understand’ and ‘Hold On’. A topic that anyone can relate to, whether presently or in retrospect, Mendes puts every young adult’s fears into words and subtly reassures that those carrying around the heavy feeling of being out of place or like a stranger in their own skin are not alone in those feelings: an important message to convey especially when considering Shawn’s audience is mostly adolescence, a message that many other popular artists do not touch upon. 

Mendes ends the record with ‘Roses’, a symbolic, piano driven ballad that brings the album to a strong close, leaving the listener with a warm satisfaction. All in all, the artist doesn’t disappoint, bringing a refreshing sound to the current world of pop music. 

‘Illuminate’ is now available via Island Records.

Shawn Mendes 'Illuminate' - ALBUM REVIEW

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