Shawn Mendes, freshly 21, ascends from the stage with a blinding light shining beneath him. The crowd goes insane at the mere sight of his silhouette. He wastes no time and strides to the microphone, singing the first lines to his hit "Lost In Japan". There's undeniable confidence in every step, every move, every smile, and every note he hits. There's a reason he's been named "The Prince of Pop", and he very well deserves it.
Stars like Shawn Mendes are nothing new in popular culture. There were idols like him before and there are sure to be ones after. The likeness of Justin Beiber, One Direction, NSYNC, and The Backstreet Boys come most prominently to mind. But whatever essence of stardom all his pop ancestors had before him, Shawn Mendes certainly has it now. Starting his career singing on Youtube and Vine, his transition to mainstream culture has been seamless. He was once part of Magcon, a convention of attractive internet personalities with seemingly no other talents, and it was as clear then as it is now that he was the Justin Timberlake of the group (if you know what I mean).
I never paid much attention to Mendes in his early career. Of course, I heard his hit songs on the radio but I was far more preoccupied falling in love with complete rock stars like Harry Styles to even notice him. Even now I find his older music too childish, his voice too untrained. I understood why girls liked him, I just didn't find him appealing.
That all changed when "Lost In Japan" caught my attention. The song is significantly different than his previous singles, it has a distinct style and most of all it made me feel something. He captured a feeling I didn't even know could be put into words, and that alone definitely shocked me into paying attention to him. I was instantly a fan and I listened to it for a month straight walking around campus.
What really blew me away was his 2018 self-titled album, which has been on my heavy Spotify rotation since it came out. The Mendes on these tracks is far more mature, dealing with mature subjects as well. He's struggling with one night stands, falling in lust, and falling in love with someone perfectly wrong for him. For me, at least, It's clear that this is the type of music he's been dying to do. He has finally found his voice, style, and he isn't afraid to be vulnerable. There's not a single track that I skip, and if that doesn't convince you to listen I don't know what will.
As soon as I heard he was touring near me I knew I had to go. I didn't care that I was broke, or that I would no doubt be surrounded by thirteen-year-old girls and their mothers. I convinced a friend to go with me and I bought them. For the weeks leading up to our concert, friends in my life were coming up to me telling me that they had gone to previous shows, gushing that it was the best concert they had ever been to. This was all from people who were casual fans of his at best. Needless to say, I was skeptical.
But they weren't wrong. Our venue was small compared to the ones he played in the past, and my seat was one of the cheapest I could find, far in the nosebleeds. But the energy in the room was undeniable. He's a complete star. I genuinely fawned over him when he stepped on stage.
Shawn Mendes was born to perform, there's absolutely no doubt about it. He loves being on stage, thrives off of it and wants everyone in the room to have the best show he could possibly give them. He played his classic hits like "Stitches" and "Mercy", but slightly modified with a rock influence. Most of his songs were changed in slight ways like that, with beautiful guitar solos and a sound that seemed timeless. It's clear he has matured musically even since his last album's release. And the new versions of some songs worked beautifully. I left wishing I could hear the versions he played live.
The art direction for this tour was phenomenal, there's simply no other word for it. During the concert itself, Mendes took an interlude between songs to explain his team's goal for the designs. He expressed that while he was planning this tour he specifically asked himself what made concerts enjoyable for everyone. And it's clear he succeeded. We were given LED wristbands as we entered the arena and during the show, it coordinated with the songs. Some songs they would be flashing red, another they stayed solid blue. Looking out into the audience was beautiful and added to the overall moods Mendes desired for each song. The large screen behind him was put to good use as well. While most of the time it projected his image for everyone to see, it too was filtered depending on what song it was. And sometimes his image was gone from it altogether, instead replaced with aesthetic b-roll and impeccable graphic designs.
It was the little details that struck me. At times I noticed the fog that spilled onto the stage and behind it was pushed into a shape of a flower, and lights that shone on the crowd were flower shaped as well. I could feel how much thought went into every single decision laid before me. This wasn't some reckless cash-grab, Mendes genuinely cared about the full experience.
I've struggled in the days since his concert to perfectly articulate what I felt. I left with severe post-concert depression, reminiscing about certain times during the show and I even woke up the next day rewatching the videos I had taken. It was a great night, and I only wished it could be longer.
Shawn Mendes is the Prince of Pop, but I have a feeling his interests will sway more into the rock genre as he's growing older. He could seamlessly transition into a more rock-influenced sound, and quite honestly that's where I see him going in the next few years. It's clear to me that Harry Styles's 2017 self-titled album was an influence for Mendes for his recent album. I also hear a lot of John Mayer and Timberlake as well. He's a healthy mix of all of them and still appeals to the tween generation.
I can't wait to see how his music matures from here. He still has a long way to go, but there's no doubt Mendes is a class act.