Has Shawn Mendes Solved the Mystery of Love?

One would hope that a self-titled album would bring meaning and understanding to an artist. However, for Shawn Mendes’s new album, this was not entirely the case. Some of the songs in the album speak of love that seems shallow. While there was a large sound change in this album compared to his original music, lyrically not much has changed. As a teenager, for me, the love that gets heard about in these songs seems superficial as time goes on. While in previous albums Mendes has written about such empty love in songs such as  “Three Empty Words,” I personally, was hoping for bigger things in his new album. However, with the age of the artist, comes a new maturity and experience to the songs. Mendes shows the childish nature about himself in “Nervous” as he sings about how skittish he is getting about a girl. “Lost in Japan” brings similar feelings as “Nervous.” In this song, Mendes sings about how he is missing someone who is far away. He can’t get her off of his mind, and wants to use this song to let her know that. On his self–titled album, Mendes often sings about this theme of missing someone whether because of the love they share or because of heartbreak that he has experienced. Other songs displaying this theme include “Because I Had You”, “In My Blood”, “Mutual”, and “Where Were You in the Morning.”

However, while the entire album has songs containing content reflecting these trivial feelings of longing and sadness, there are some deeper songs that can lead to thoughts about what our world really thinks love is. “Like to Be You” is a duet sung between Mendes and Julia Michaels. In this song, they seem to be having a discussion on their feelings of each other. They are trying to re-relate to each other after they have been collectively hurt. This song really hits home because a lot of times in culture and society today, in a relationship, a person is expected to share his or her feelings and deepest emotions with his or her partner. While this is good practice for a couple, sometimes there can be too much pressure on the individuals to release all feelings. However, in this song, the couple is working together to resolve the issue, instead of trying to figure it out as individuals. This is one of the wisest, most mature songs in the album because it has good values hidden behind what otherwise seem to be shallow emotions. We can also see this type of maturity in “When You’re Ready.”  Mendes sings about waiting for the person he loves. A lot of times, we can see people rushing into a certain level of intimacy in a relationship, even if neither of the people in the relationship are ready. In most cases, waiting proves to be the best idea to a healthy relationship. This way, if someone doesn’t desire to be in a relationship at the time, it gives both people time to mature and to grow. Mendes talks about this process of waiting for the person he loves. He doesn’t want to rush into a relationship. He doesn’t put pressure on her, but he offers to be there even if it takes ten years. Mendes conveys this theme in “Perfectly Wrong.” He shows growth in experience, and he talks about the need to step back from a relationship because he feels as if something past the physical element of the relationship isn’t going to survive; that their love is not strong enough for that. While he sings that he does love the physicality of the relationship, he also mentions that on it’s own, that is not enough to stay with someone.

In today’s society,  we see how a relationship between two people only lasts because of the physical attributes of someone or because of what they can do behind closed doors. However, in his music, Mendes says that more is needed for a positive and continuous relationship to grow. I personally believe that this is a fact. Successful and long lasting relationships cannot be built by superficial, physical love. The deepness of his song called “Perfectly Wrong,” which talks about this, can make a person think about what is truly important in a relationship.

The very most thought provoking song on this album is in my opinion, “Youth,” which features another young voice, Khalid. In this song, the men sing together about pain and hatred, and how such things won’t affect them. As you listen more to this song, it sounds like an anthem for the young and the living. It seems as if the song references all of the hard times that are being experienced by youth, which today force many to grow up quickly. With all of the school shootings going on, political outcries, cultural changes, and restrictions taking place within today’s society, the song calls out the youth to make a stand; and not to change themselves based on how the world thinks. This is one of the most powerful songs for youth because it gives support to the younger generation to not give in to what the world calls them to conform to; that the fear and frustration of the world should not cause the youth to change themselves, but to grow. This song addresses this strong issue with a subtle pop feel. In fact, several of the deeper songs are addressed in such a manner.

A large section of Mendes’s new album brings references to the jazz, funk style of the music legend Prince. While not entirely matching Prince’s style, the singer/songwriter of the 21st century’s new album certainly has similar instruments and vocal effects as the classic artist. However, Mendes brings a more modern feel to this style, which makes it appeal to the younger audiences. Although not in all the songs in his new self-titled album, overall Shawn Mendes is able to address certain issues and topics of the world, while presenting them in a manner appealing to the typical audience.

by Emily Stanley