Album Review: ‘Shawn Mendes’

Since Shawn Mendes emerged in 2014 as one of the first-ever “Vine stars” (it’s hard to believe how quaint a term involving defunct social-media app can sound), he’s evolved with a self-assurance that belies his youth, his indisputable cuteness and the seemingly inevitable fizz that would come with such an arrival.

He’s deftly avoided many of the pitfalls of both novelty status and teen stardom — partially because, unlike many teen stars, he didn’t arrive on the coattails of a television show or film that diluted his identity — and, thanks to a live show strong enough to sell out Madison Square Garden and well-crafted pop songs like the punctuationally inconsistent “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back” and his biggest hit “Stitches,” he’s developed an impressively sturdy career and a fanatical following, albeit one mostly consisting of teenaged girls.

Now 19, the singer is preparing for the next, arguably most difficult transition, one that’s felled many before him: The move from teen star to career artist. His new album — which signals this transition by being self-titled, even though it’s his third full-length — both doubles down on the breathy acoustic pop that got him where he is and finds him branching into into several risky but generally satisfying directions. While the opening track, “In My Blood,” features a soaring rock chorus in obvious homage to Kings of Leon’s 2007 hit “Sex on Fire,” Mendes’ two role models here are others who made a similar leap: Justins Timberlake and Bieber. The former looms over tight, lite-R&B tracks like “Nervous” and “Lost in Japan” and especially Mendes’ phrasing and white-soul vocals that often flip into falsetto; the latter in the several wistful tracks here that evoke Bieber’s comeback hit, the Ed Sheeran-assisted “Love Yourself.” Yet the references are less derivative than knowing winks and signposts that signal Mendes’ intended path.

Film Review: 'Superfly'