Mendes needs learn to put quality before quantity in order to give album two time to grow into something original or, at the very least, interesting.
I’m hugely impressed by Shawn Mendes, for at 18 years old – a year younger than me – he has already achieved vastly more than I ever will in my entire life, no doubt. The arrival of his second album Illuminate took me by surprise as it seems his first album was only about five minutes ago. Indeed, 2015’s Handwritten is barely out of nappies, especially on this side of the Atlantic, but somehow Mendes has been through enough heartbreak since to fill up another 41 minutes of lovelorn ballads.
However, someone needs to tell Mendes that in life, quality is better than quantity. Illuminate illuminates nothing profound, with each dull track merging into the next to form one giant heartbroken whine which gets old really quickly. It’s an age-old demand from music reviewers that album two must be a fresh and new take on its subject’s skillset with adequate consideration of what went well the first time around – see Bastille’s Wild Worldfor a good example – yet Illuminate falls rather foul, being merely an under-par attempt at Handwritten 2. ‘Treat You Better,’ the album’s lead single and pretty much the only moment of interest in the morose set, is nowhere near as good as ‘Stitches.’ Any initially groovy guitar riffs are enjoyable until subjected to death by repetition, as too are choruses. Illuminate could benefit from some duets, especially with female artists, as Mendes’ voice alone is lost in the rabble of today’s pop vocalists.
Maybe it’s the north American obsession with overplaying and rushing good things until they become bad things, but it’s a real struggle to find anything good to say about Illuminate. It needs far more polish, original content, and at least one or two positive glimmers amongst all that heartache. Take a few more years to think on what you’ve done before round three, Shawn – God knows you’ve got enough time for a career ahead of you.
Illuminate is out now via Island Records