With all of the hits that Shawn Mendes has dished up in just five years, it’s almost hard to believe that he’s only turning 21 today (Aug. 8). Since he released his first single, 2014’s “Life of the Party,” Mendes’ songs have captured the hearts of millions around the world, thanks to his smooth voice and acoustic guitar mastery — and he continued the allure with his latest smash, the Camila Cabello team-up “Señorita.”
If you dig into all of the Shawn Mendes song catalog, though, you’ll see that he’s crafted some pretty fantastic tunes aside from the catchy singles. Sure, the ones on the radio are great, but it’s the deep cuts that really show Mendes’ artistry and vocal ability.
Billboard dove into Mendes’ entire collection and picked out the songs that are the most gush-worthy without being as well-known (at least to those who aren’t Shawn superfans).
Take a look at Mendes’ best deep cuts below.
Mendes has been referred to as a “young John Mayer” and has even cited the “Gravity” singer as one of his biggest inspirations. This Illuminate track may be the best indication of Mayer’s influence, featuring almost hypnotizing guitar and perhaps the most soulful vocal display on any of Shawn Mendes’ songs yet.
There’s a sense of Ed Sheeran in the verses of this Handwritten tune, with Mendes speeding up his singing so much that it almost sounds like he’s rapping — and it totally works. But Mendes doesn’t completely jeer away from the acoustic sound and his signature crooning in the song, bringing both back in the chorus.
Mendes showed his maturity on his self-titled album with funkier guitar riffs and more risque lyrics, and “Particular Taste” is arguably the best representation of that on his latest set. The burning bass line feels as sexy as the song makes listeners feel, as Mendes sings about a girl who knows what she wants and goes after it — and judging by the sultry way Shawn delivers lines like “Now she’s runnin’ all her fingers right through my hair,” it seems he doesn’t mind.
“Air” featuring Astrid S
While Mendes’ collaborations with Camila Cabello are tough to beat, another collab in his collection puts up a pretty good fight. It’s much slower-paced, but that allows his harmonies with Astrid S to shine — especially on the sharps at the end of the chorus.
Mendes includes falsetto in many of his songs, and “No Promises” is no exception. In fact, the chorus of the song is almost all upper-register moments. He clearly wanted to highlight that, keeping the verses lower and slower as a build up — making the higher and bigger notes even more striking. What’s funny is that it’s the shortest song in his catalog, but all that he does vocally in just two minutes and 46 seconds makes it feel like one of his most dynamic.
Many of Mendes’ songs see him pining for a girl he likes, but “Queen” is proof that not all ladies are worth fighting for. Whether or not Mendes was speaking from personal experience, he came up with the perfect clapbacks to someone who has a bit of an ego (“Who crowned you queen of/ You think you’re too cool?”), putting the lyrics to a catchy beat that makes it even more fun to tell off the jerks of the world.
“Don’t Be a Fool”
There’s not really a Shawn Mendes song that doesn’t have at least a little passion in it, but he presents quite the fervent plea to a girl in “Don’t Be a Fool” — instead of pleading in a lustful way, though, Mendes is actually breaking things off with her. Even so, he does it in the most poetic, heartfelt way possible, all the while doing some of his most striking vocal work to date.
“Imagination” doesn’t just melt your heart because of the “I want to be with you” story it tells (“In my dreams you’re with me / We’ll be everything I want us to be”) but also because of the way he presents that story with the music. He combines slow building verses with an impassioned chorus — sprinked with a little falsetto — that makes you hope he’s the one you’re singing to.
Mendes has become the master of writing about relationships, whether you’re madly in or falling out of love. “Mutual” is the combination of both: He’s feeling it, but senses that his significant other isn’t on the same page. It’s a relatable sentiment, one that’s felt even harder thanks to Mendes’ gritty delivery.
Every Mendes track includes his acoustic guitar in some capacity, but those chiller vibes are practically most prevalent in “Honest.” With lighthearted guitar and soft vocals, “Honest” is perhaps the sweetest way to break someone’s heart (“I hate to hurt you but I got to be honest/ I can’t give you what you need/ Oh, you deserve more than I can promise”) — which makes Mendes seem like even more of a stand-up guy than he appears on stage.
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