Release Date: Apr 14, 2015
Record label: Island
Toronto teen Shawn Mendes achieved a No 1 EP on iTunes the millennial way – by covering six seconds of a Justin Bieber song on the micro-video platform Vine. Once he’d acquired thousands of followers, a record deal materialised, and now, age 16, he’s releasing his debut album. It’s usually challenging to detect much difference between Bieber and the social-media stars who’ve followed him, but Mendes, to his credit, steers clear of bleached-out Bieberean R&B.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A dough-faced kid from Canada uploads his crooning covers of famous songs on social media. In a few months, he becomes a scream magnet for teen girls, leading to a record contract and tours all over America. That’s the Justin Bieber story — but now it’s being retold by 16-year-old, Toronto-born Shawn Mendes.
Just as baby boomers trawled the Seventies for a new Dylan, millennials — and those who profit off them — are still in search of the next Bieber. Shawn Mendes, a 16-year-old Canadian with more Vine followers than Justin himself, once seemed like a viable candidate. His debut album, though, presents him as a nice-guy guitar strummer more influenced by the light acoustic pop of Ed Sheeran.
Shawn Mendes circumvented traditional routes to a recording contract by posting short clips of himself singing other people's songs on the video-sharing service Vine. These were no more than a few seconds -- Vine's restrictions set the limit at six seconds, which is hardly enough time to cover a chorus -- but it was enough to set some teenage hearts aflutter, which led to a contract with Island, which led to an EP in 2014, which led to the full-length debut Handwritten in 2015. That was a two-year march to an album, which should've been enough time for Mendes to learn how to engage a listener for at least 60 seconds, but Handwritten is pretty thin gruel.