Just a year after the release of Handwritten, eighteen year old Shawn Mendes released his sophomore album “Illuminate” last Friday. In one year, it’s as if we hear a completely matured Mendes that we never knew existed. Or, strike that. Hardcore fans may have known this but as a casual listener, I was completely impressed by this new album.
Many of us are familiar with the current single that’s making it’s way around the radio, “Treat You Better” which is yes, about relationships. Granted, about ninety-five percent of this album has to do with being a relationship with the exception of track twelve, “Understand,” which is about understanding that life is not plain and simple but moreso a huge jigsaw puzzle. Probably not my favorite track but that’s most likely because I’m not a huge fan of talking sequences during songs unless it’s Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
For being only eighteen, Mendes seems to have a lot of good/bad experiences with love and needs a long hug after putting this album together. Or, he just experienced a lot of this vicariously through friends and family. This is the type of album my high school self would have wanted to put on repeat. As corny as that sounds, it’s true. It was my first thought running through the album the first time. In about twelve tracks aka forty-one minutes, you’re dragged through a rollercoaster of the early stages of a relationship, the rocky points, the confusing moments and evidently the slow break up.
Some songs you just gotta take a step back and ask, “Who treated you so cruel, Mendes?” From “Mercy”, a song about begging a girl to cut him some slack, to “No Promises”, a track where he’s asking for his girl to not make a promise because he doesn’t want to feel the consequences as soon as they’re broken. Poor guy. And speaking of broken, “Honest” and “Patience” are two tracks that seem as if they go hand in hand. In one song, Mendes is being honest on how he can no longer be with this person anymore. In the other, we’re put in Mendes’ shoes listening to how frustrated he is by this girl playing with his emotions. Coincidence? Is that why you broke it off Mendes?
Another thing I couldn’t help but notice is that even though Mendes and fellow singer-songwriter John Mayer have completely different voices, they have styles are very alike. As soon as I heard “Ruin,” it reminded me of something I’d hear on Mayer’s album or even Nick Jonas’ when he worked with his side project Nick Jonas and The Administration. His style and format has matured but he still has a long way to be in the ranks of John Mayer or Jason Mraz. Give it a few years.
Nonetheless, Shawn Mendes is someone who definitely deserves recognition for his own original work in the midst of being given an often tainted reputation for being a mainstream, top 40 artist. Props to him!
Rating: 7 out of 10