Illuminate by Shawn Mendes

7 July 2019

A few years ago, a group of boys that called themselves “magcon” came about, and the world of teenage girls was changed forever. I was personally not in the slightest bit into these seemingly vain boys attempting to be funny and having girls everywhere fawn all over them, but I was one of the only ones. When Magcon broke up, most of them went into modelling or rapping, but one of them ventured on to be one of the most popular names in music right now. I have never been into pop music, i’ve always enjoyed classic rock or alternative, but my sister would not stop raving about a particular new pop artist, named Shawn Mendes. Intrigued as to what the big deal with him was, I took my sister to see him in concert for her birthday in late August. He uttered one note, and I was sucked in immediately. It was a small venue, and he wore a navy blue longsleeve tee-shirt, blue jeans, a mic on his cheek, and an acoustic guitar. The lighting and scenery and clothing were all simplistic, without any need to hide Shawn’s talent. There really was no need to hide his voice or guitar-playing, as he sang soft low notes, belted beautiful high notes, and played his guitar until it lost it’s tuning.
This morning, his new album, illuminate, came out, and I was beyond eager to listen to it. The first song on the album is titled “ruin”, and it starts of with a jazz beat, which is different from Mendes’ usual style. He keeps up with his usual song theme by singing another song about a girl, this song in particular being a question of how her feelings about him relate to his feelings of her. The song is boring, slow, repetitive, and definitely not one of his best songs, or anything even remotely special. The next song on the album is quite possibly my favorite song, titled “Mercy”. It starts off with Shawn humming a gentle melody alongside gentle piano playing, which glides into soft singing. The song builds up to the chorus, where other instruments are introduced, and Mendes sings in a raspy tone begging for mercy to be released from having feelings for someone. He includes that the person does not intend to hurt him, but he needs them to set him free, and have “mercy” on him. This song has a perfect mix of soft, beautiful humming and singing, and soulful, passionate, raspy singing. The song has a mix of many instruments on many different parts as well, and has beautiful, powerful lyrics that make the person listening feel as if they themselves are experiencing Shawn’s pain alongside him.
The next song on his album is titled “treat you better”, and is a commentary on domestic violence. The song begins with guitar plucking, and Shawn saying to someone that he knows that the guy that they are with is just not right for them. This song is similar to “mercy” in the sense that it starts off gentle and calm and builds up in the chorus to a raspy/hurting tone. This song is different in the sense that anger is introduced too, both in the sense that the guy that the girl is with is hurting her, and that the girl is unable to see this, and get out of her bad situation, and let Shawn treat her better. The music video shows Shawn and the girl sitting on opposite sides of a wall crying and in pain. This song is definitely much darker than any of the other ones, and also comments on a very serious matter, that I think he does a very good job of explaining.Shawn promises that he can treat the girl better, and be a gentleman for her, unlike the other guy who has no respect for her. This song and “mercy” are my favorite songs, both for their diverse tones and passion. The next song is “Three empty words”. The song begins with upbeat guitar strumming and light humming, and then Shawn saying that he will pick someone up at the same time and the same place, and that they’ll just talk to fill up the awkward space. He says that they’ll play the songs they love before they try to fall in love again, and that they don’t know who’s wrong or right, but they don’t care enough to fight. He says that they’re just going through the motions because they can’t fix what’s broken. Shawn says that he won’t keep on saying those “three empty words”, which most likely are “I Love You.” He says that he’s running out of things to say, and that it’s going to break his heart to tell her little brother and that even if they stayed together, it would never be the same. This song is different from his other songs because it’s almost entirely just acoustic guitar, has almost no buildup, and is about an event that has happened in a relationship, whereas most of his other songs are about him missing a relationship or hoping for a relationship, but never about being in one.
His next song is titled “Don’t Be A Fool”. It starts with another slow, acoustic melody with a slight blues twang. He tells a girl to not be a fool by waiting for him, because he’s always on the move. This seems to reflect Mendes’ life, in the sense that as an artist, he is always on the move, and most likely is too busy to be in a strong, steady relationship. There is background singing in this song unlike “Three Empty Words”, and Shawn pursues extremely high notes to accompany the blues-tune of the song.This song has beautiful notes, a catchy beat, and a personal message, but isn’t anything special compared to many of his other songs. The next song on his new album is titled “Like This”, and it starts off with piano playing, and Shawn singing softly about trying to go on without someone. A few bars in, background voices and guitar add into the song as Mendes picks up the beat of his singing, and begins to pick up a raspy tone. Shawn remarks that the girl he is going without isn’t even “drop-dead gorgeous”, but is honest and kills him everyday. This is an important line because it remarks on this girl’s personality being more important than her looks, which is very hard to find in music nowadays. Overall, this song sounds like most of his other songs, with a little bit of a twist with the soulful piano playing and different tune at the end of certain lines.
His next song, “No Promises”, begins with guitar picking. The singing begins with a darker tone, as Shawn explains that he is “staring out my hotel window, with too much on my mind,” A girl accompanies Shawn’s singing in the third line he sings and an echoing goes on in the background, and then the song has almost a beat drop, going into his raspy singing with an echoing “woah-oh-woah-oh-oh” in the background. The beat is now upbeat and very pop, which is very different from Mendes’ usual acoustic style. He sings about not keeping promises, because he knows that “they” won’t be able to keep them. The song then fades back into Mendes’ typical acoustic style, but with a firm drum beat in the background. The girl begins to sing again, and another beat drop signals the chorus again, with the echoes of “woah-oh-woah-oh-oh” being the background again. The song then segways into a faster acoustic pace, the drum back again at a much faster pace. The chorus repeats again with another beat drop, but with no girl’s voice leading into it this time. This song is a refreshing change from Shawn’s repetitive style, but the song itself is very repetitive, and could be much better if it was shortened by at least a chorus.
The 8th song in his album is titled “Lights On”, andit starts (again) with guitar picking and Shawn softly singing about yet another beautiful girl, and how he wants her body, but he’s a gentleman so he vows to take it slow. He says that he wants to love her with the lights on, so that he can love every part of her. This song is extremely uncomfortable to listen to , as Shawn sings about there being so much “left to see” and getting to know each other under the “sheets of a hotel room with a good vibe”. The song is catchy, but the melody is forgettable, and the lyrics are extremely uncomfortable. The next song is titledhonest, and begins with even more guitar picking and gentle singing. The song has a nice beat, as he asks a girl to meet him on a street, where he needs to talk to her about something. He sings in broken-up sentences, he sings that he needs to be honest with this girl because he hates to hurt her, but he knows that he can’t give her what she needs. The next song in the lineup is titled “patience”. The song starts off with upbeat guitar strumming, as he talks about a girl who hits him up at night on a daily basis, and how her friends should take her phone away. He talks about a girl that drives him crazy with her constant indecisiveness, and that she’s making him lose his patience. This song is very similar to the other songs in this album, and nothing special, easily forgettable with boring lyrics, a boring melody, and a repetitive tune.
“Bad reputation” continues Shawn’s attitude of always being a gentleman, as he sings about a girl who had a bad reputation, and who he assures he will love no matter what her reputation is, and that he hopes he can prove her reputation wrong, and love her in the way that he thinks she deserves. The song begins with a slow, almost haunting melody played on piano. The third time the chorus is repeated, it speeds up, and becomes more of a grungy/rock tune to accompany the same words. This is definitely a new type of song for Shawn, who almost always sings acoustic, calm songs, and never really acknowledges a girl as anything other than perfect in the eyes of everyone else as well as him. The next song, “understand”, begins with piano playing, as Shawn sings about his fear of losing who he is in the midst of his fame. It’s refreshing to hear a song that’s not about a girl, and the song presents a very valid fear that an incredibly famous teenager has to deal with. This song provides insight into Shawn’s belief system and values, which makes him very admirable to the listener, not only for his music, but for him as a person as well. He has a talking interlude in the middle of the song, which is also a very nice change. The 13th song is titled “hold on”, which starts off with guitar strumming, and with Shawn talking about stopping and just admiring what’s going on, and him being alone, and missing his dad. His dad tells him that although he doesn’t know what he’s going though, he just needs Shawn to know that there’s so much life ahead of him, and to always hold on. This song has so so so much passion, seeming to breakthrough every word. The lyrics make it sound as if Shawn is going through a rough part of life, and his dad is telling him to always hold on to life, no matter how bad the situation is. This is also much more serious than most of Shawn’s songs, and very very very personal. This song is moving, with great lyrics, a great tune and a catchy melody, and an extremely important message.
The next song is titled “roses”, and begins with piano playing, and a beat unlike most of his other songs. He’s back to singing about girls, about how he gives a girl a rose, and the option to either die or let it grow. Considering Mendes is almost always completely blunt about what he has to say, this use of metaphor is refreshing and interesting. The girl he gives the rose to seems to be with another guy, but Shawn thinks that he loves this girl much more than this other guy. The acoustic version of Mercy is only on the deluxe version, and honestly sounds exactly like the original. Overall, this album is somewhat forgettable with only a few standout songs, and is a huge disappointment in comparison to his last album, “Handwritten”.

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