May 19, 2024


Shawn Mendes keeps it simple on his debut album. The 16-year-old Canadian singer and Vine star isn’t one of those cute faces whose still-maturing voice gets hidden with a honey-coating of studio sweetener.

Instead, Handwritten (**1/2 out of four) has the simplicity and vulnerability of a carefully folded love note passed surreptitiously in class, and Mendes’ voice practically cracks with emotion and yearning.

Mendes, who’ll be a support act on Taylor Swift’s upcoming 1989 tour, is a teen heartthrob in the mold of Ed Sheeran. He infuses folk-based pop songs with some gentle R&B rhythms and the occasional rapid rhyme: His current single, Something Big, feels reminiscent of Sheeran’s recent single Don’t.

Mendes’ songs are built around his acoustic guitar and piano, some with strings, some with horns, but nothing that couldn’t be scaled back to the most intimate performance setting.

In Life of the Party, last year’s gold single that leads this set, Mendes sings, “Take your shot, it might be scary/Hearts are gonna break.” Broken hearts are pretty much a given for a 16-year-old’s music, and Mendes feels them, and everything else, deeply. He bleeds so much when she hurts him that he needs stitches. But he’s also committed. He promises to keep the object of his affection safe and sound, and he wants a relationship that comes with “all the string attached.”

In his songs, Mendes comes across as ultra-sensitive and appealingly self-deprecating. In one song, he sings about needing help with long division. “Maybe I’m just a kid in love,” he sings in another, setting up the punch line: “If this is what it’s like falling in love, then I don’t ever want to grow up.”

Mendes aches to be more than ordinary. In an album with 16 songs in its deluxe form, including two that appeared on an EP released last year, he can’t always be. He can, however, sing everything with the intensity of a new crush. And, on an album with a takeaway message to young girls that, “You don’t have to do anything but be yourself,” that can be enough.


Source: Usa Today