Picking up the thread left dangling from 2016's Illuminate, Shawn Mendes decides to create an even more fashionable set of soulful pop on his eponymous 2018 album. Mendes remains a quivering adolescent presence -- he was still 19 years old when this album saw release -- but his self-titled record is assured and quietly confident in a way that suggests he has his adulthood on his mind. He doesn't abandon the soft-focus soul that turned "Stitches" into a breakthrough smash, but he deepens his groove and polishes his surfaces, all the while concentrating on crafting sturdy songs. Never mind that the album gets off to a shaky start with "In My Blood," an anonymous arena rock number that suggests he equates playing rock to the rafters with real music, a notion that's dispelled by the remainder of the record. He builds Shawn Mendes on lithe, tuneful R&B numbers, happy to have songs be as mellowly effervescent as "Queen" or as modern as the gently pulsating "Youth," which is graced by an appearance from Khalid. Mendes occupies a space between modern R&B and Ed Sheeran's earnest balladeering, but the key to his success -- both commercially and artistically -- is his light touch. There's a palpable sweetness to music that endures, even when a production is as bright and glistening as it is on Shawn Mendes. That bodes well for the future that Shawn Mendes is so evidently planning for.
Shawn Mendes Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine