Shawn Mendes' Illuminate: What You Need To Know
Over the last decade or so, many musicians have benefitted from the rise of various emerging social media platforms; Arctic Monkeys and Lily Allen both became early examples of success, growing solid fanbases through MySpace, then in its infancy, while countless others have found fame and popularity through sites like YouTube. For a 15-year old Shawn Mendes, it was Vine that became the initial platform for success – in 2013 he began posting short videos of himself covering the songs of others, by August 2014 he was third-most followed musician on the platform.
A record deal with island and debut album, Handwritten, swiftly followed in 2015, topping the charts in the U.S. and reaching No. 12 in the UK. This week, just a year on from his debut, Mendes is back with his second album. It's called Illuminate and here's everything you need to know about it...
A little background...
Having employed a number of different producers and songwriters on his first album, this time around Mendes has whittled the contributors down to a select handful from his debut album and once again there are several co-writing contributions from the likes of Scott Harris and Teddy Geiger, the latter having co-produced Mendes' breakout hit 'Stitches'.
Mendes has described the new album as more 'edgy' than its predecessor and he's been locked away for weeks at a time working at the Clubhouse studio, near the site of the famous Woodstock festival. He's cited the likes of John Mayer and Ed Sheeran as influences and suggested that there's a more 'R&B vibe' to his sophomore album.
Who's producing it?
Teddy Geiger makes several contributions to the album's production this time around, while a new addition is Jake Gosling, whose recent list of production and co-writing credits includes the aforementioned Mr. Sheeran and James Bay.
Any special guests?
No. Although his debut featured a guest appearance from Norwegian songstress Astrid S, this time Mendes is going it alone.
What does it sound like?
The early singles hint at that 'edgy' direction Mendes is heading in here, particularly 'Treat You Better', a song written about being in an abusive relationship and the most obvious example of that 'R&B vibe' Mendes is going for. Having been between 15 and 16 years old when putting together his debut album, this is altogether a more grown-up record than Handwritten and as he noted himself in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, “from 15 to 18, your whole view on life changes”.
That's most evident in the album's lyrics, but songs like 'Ruin' and 'Mercy' also represent a refining of the winning formula employed on his debut album, with a broader palette of musical influences becoming evident across Illuminate's 12 tracks.
Does it deliver?
If you fell in love with Mendes' debut album then Illuminate will only cement your affections for his music, but even if Handwritten passed you by there are encouraging signs of growth as a songwriter that hint at real promise. At just 18, Mendes has the world at his feet and his learning curve has been a steep one over the last few months, but it's one that he's negotiated with some skill. This is a more soulful album than his debut and although the initial hype wave propelling him to success has subsided a little by now, that'll end up working in Mendes' favour if he's allowed the time and space to develop into the artist he has the potential to be. If Illuminate is anything to go by, he's already on the right track.