For the entire span of Shawn Mendes' career, he's been compared to John Mayer. Mendes only speaks warmly of Mayer, and there's genuine respect between the two of them. Mayer himself has said, "Shawn is just a better version of me in a lot of ways." They've shared stages, Mayer played and produced on Mendes' last record, and Mayer even penned the essay on Mendes for the list of Most Influential People of 2018 for "Time." And it's easy to see how similar they are, with their soulful hazel eyes and perfect hair. Not to mention they are both adamant about writing their own songs and are attached to their guitars as if they were extensions of their bodies. Neither of them is confined by generations of fans or genres of music. Most importantly, they both overflow with passion and are authentic in their artistry.
I was lucky enough to see them both perform in the same week, but I'm reluctant to compare them to one another. I'd rather explain how great both evenings were with the two artists I love more than any others. As I was watching John Mayer perform, I wasn't thinking to myself, "this is what Shawn Mendes is going to be like in 20 years." Just like the thought, "I wish Shawn Mendes had as many guitar solos as Mayer" never crossed my mind. My focus was on how talented they both are, and I was wowed by different things in each of their performances. I wasn't worried about how one would stack up to the other; not now, or at any point in their careers.
Because as incredible as they both are, analogizing them with anyone would be limiting. The truth is, Shawn Mendes is not "the next John Mayer," because John Mayer is the next John Mayer. And Shawn Mendes is a young Shawn Mendes with a huge musical life ahead of him. You could easily have one without the other, we just happen to be lucky enough to live in a time where both of them are sharing their talents with us simultaneously.
John Mayer is only in the middle of his career and has so many new discoveries left to make in this ever-changing, never-ending galaxy of music. And in the meantime, people of all ages, genders, and ethnicities will come to his shows to dance and scream and sing along to whatever songs he has handpicked for them. And it's doubly impressive because the setlists for each show are unique compilations of songs from his mile-long catalog. That's the only proof anyone should need to know that the real estate he's taken up in the music industry is not for sale.
He has astounding wisdom, his lyrics are intricate, and he makes sound choices creatively. It takes a lot of self-awareness for one to be able to sit with their own thoughts and create so much beauty from them with no assistance. He has the ability to write songs entirely on his own and sing them with just a guitar in a packed arena. And people are awestruck by it.
What's unique about Mayer is the willful patience of his fans to be enamored at his shows. Every person in the room was ready to be captivated. In a time where everything is so rapid and distracting, it was amazing to see everyone just slow down to enjoy a song lasting 8 minutes. It's like they just knew it'd be wonderful if they allowed it to be. And it was easy to get lost in the guitars and the incredible sounds coming from the massive band.
But on top of all those things that mesmerized me about my night of watching John Mayer, the best thing was the feeling I got. It is so far beyond anything I felt before. I'd catch myself getting lost in lyrics of songs like "Walt Grace," which is sophisticated and layered with metaphors filled with intrigue. And then some wild sound would make its way out of one of his 4-minute guitar solos, like the one in "Changing," and goosebumps would cover my entire body.
And then it would happen all over again with the next song that I wouldn't see coming. And I can't speak for everyone who was in that arena with me, but I didn't mind not knowing what song would come next. Truthfully, if anything would be preventing me from hearing all of my favorite songs of his, it's because I literally have 75 and he only plays a third of that each night. Nevertheless, I loved all 25 songs he sang. It almost felt like the songs he played on that night were the ones God or the universe or John Mayer himself just needed me to hear.
Shawn Mendes is his own person first and foremost. He can be compared to so many greats because he has all the components that make for a legendary artist. But Shawn Mendes is a name that will stand all on its own. Age has nothing to do with it; he has the talent, passion, ambition, and authenticity it takes. Those were qualities he had at fifteen, now at twenty-one, and in twenty years from now, I'm sure they'll be amplified.
I confidently say that because he's stayed so grounded and true to himself throughout his rapidly growing career.
The love that radiated from Mendes cannot be replicated. I would argue that no one enjoys what they do as much as he enjoys making people happy. I don't think it would've mattered if the arena was full, or if there were just twenty people in the back, he would have had every person in the place feel love for the two hours he was onstage.
I can only hope that Mendes keeps that energy and gives out love forever. Because it was the perfect atmosphere to be in. His band seemed stoked to get to play his inspiring, blissful, emphatic songs every night.
Something that resonates with me about Mendes is how he treats his fans like people. Everyone can feel important by watching him play and hearing him speak. For the younger and more impressionable fans, he spreads positive messages of how they can make a difference. Older fans can have their hearts filled with a love that is classic and all-consuming. I knew at the last moment of Mendes' show that I would carry the feeling of it forever. He managed to capture this massive energy and hand it to every person there. At the end of "In My Blood," smoke and confetti and tears filled the air, and I know I can't be the only person who felt invincible in that moment. If there was ever a feeling I'd want to bottle up and keep in my pocket, it's that.
Both concerts were beautiful environments to be in. Mendes had seemingly magical bracelets that lit up in time to the music and it made me feel like I was a part of something wonderful. And Mayer's production was like a weird dream with abstract landscapes and dancing CGI pandas.
It's just great that Mayer allows himself to be influential, and Mendes allows himself to be influenced. But what's even better is that it also goes the other way. They can bounce off of one another, and of course, John Mayer has a lot to teach someone as open-minded and creative as Mendes. And with two parents who were educators, it's in his blood. But Mendes' fresh outlook can be helpful, and Mayer isn't someone who's stuck his ways. It's a healthy artistic relationship and the trust they have in one another is what gives me any confidence at all to find parallels between the two artists.
They're both doing what they love. And they're both wired to be musicians and were lucky enough to grasp that early in their lives. That's the biggest, most unavoidable parallel between the two of them. Neither of them walked out like they had something to prove. It can be seen in the way John Mayer sings all these songs like he's been saving them for something special. With no new album to promote, but just belief in everything he's done thus far. He's created magic that's outlasted different versions of "cool." Shawn Mendes just seemed proud the entire time. So comfortable in his own skin and like the show was better than anything he could have ever dreamt. They have passion and love that I felt lucky to have witnessed.