A recent Google search on Shawn Mendes turned up articles on his romance with fellow pop star Camila Cabello. Several media outlets asked themselves, “Why didn’t they kiss at the MTV Video Music Awards? What does it all mean?”
Such minutiae could obscure the music, but the 21-year-old Canadian star has managed to churn out multiple, top-ten hits in the last five years. He finally hit No. 1 with the Cabello-assisted "Señorita" this year, and received a coveted “Song of the Year” nomination for “In My Blood” at the 61st annual Grammy Awards in February.Find out what's happening in the Columbus area: Sign up for our Life in the 614 newsletter
It’s an impressive climb from his start on YouTube and Vine, where he developed a following for covering other artists’ songs.
And at his show at Nationwide Arena on Tuesday, Mendes proved his music will continue to resonate with listeners young and old — even as social media trends and public relationships come to an end.
That’s not to say his image is lacking. Boasting model good looks, Mendes emerged onstage with what seems to be his signature uniform—sleeveless shirt and black jeans.
But the ear-splitting screams from the crowd of teens, pre-teens and their enthusiastic moms were conjured by hit songs, like “There’s Nothin’ Holdin’ Me Back” and “Stitches,” which he was wise to put near the top of the show. The audience needed no further stimulation, but glowing bracelets were provided, and props included a giant flower stretching to the ceiling, and virtual flowers on swirling on a video screen.
Without Cabello present for “Señorita” and 2015 duet, “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” Mendes made the piano his companion. Here, he only offered some basic chords, but proved adept at the instrument later during “Never Be Alone;” brief noodling on Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me);” and a medley of songs from earlier albums.
He demonstrated his growing skills on guitar (he originally taught himself with YouTube tutorials) during “Like to Be You,” though his acoustic plucking was bolstered by soloing from his backup guitarist. Mendes offered solos of his own on “Ruin” and “Why.” The effort was impressive, but he still has a lot to learn.
Mendes’ strongest instrument is his voice, which carried over the crowd. But it’s truly his songwriting that continues to capture the attention of the masses.
And he’s only getting better by honing his own skills, and teaming with the right people, like trusted collaborators Teddy Geiger and Scott Harris, as well as hitmakers Ed Sheeran and Ryan Tedder on his latest album.
He’s also experimenting with different genres; R&B song “Where Were You in the Morning?” should have been a bigger hit, and was even more enjoyable live.
Time will tell if Mendes, and, really, most artists of this generation will move beyond “bops” and pen songs that will endure for 30+ years. He’s been venturing outside of romantic storylines with songs like “In My Blood,” which he has said references his struggle with anxiety.
And “Youth,” written with other young star, Khalid, is a response to the tragedy and despair in the world.
Mendes made it clear that the word “youth” means “freedom and happiness” to him. But when he sang, “You can’t take my youth away,” it sounded like a reminder to give him time.