Shawn Mendes

The real deal

Shawn Mendes is a pop star born both of and for Generation Z. He doesn’t see genre as a barrier, and he regards all of music as an open playing field, which it very much is for someone with his talent. His enthusiasm is boundless and infectious, probably because of the fact that he gets better by the day. He’s like Neo in The Matrix, downloading skills in one sitting. “I know falsetto harmonies.”

He’s reverential, but he’s not deferential: when I invited him to share the stage with me in Toronto last year, I unconsciously expected I’d be the one calling the shots during rehearsal. But Shawn isn’t passive. He got in there. He was determined, he pitched ideas, and they were good ones. He knows his right to stand on that stage is every bit as real as mine is, and I love that about him. Because he’s right.

Shawn has a good head on his shoulders, but he also has excellent shoulders; his physique falls somewhere between fitness model and party trick, yet the more undeniable a heartthrob he becomes, the more he insists on staying grounded. He knows that music is good shelter from its own associated nonsense, and his devotion to his craft is exactly why people twice his age are welcoming him into their lives and playlists.

The scary thing about becoming a professional musician early in life is that in many cases, young artists stop taking music in once they’re paid to put it out. But the fine art of Shawn Mendes is that you’re watching him discover music in real time. His songs are often his interpretation of music he’s fallen in love with, sometimes while he’s still on his honeymoon with it. Shawn has a very strong, clear, wide-eyed view of the world, and I can’t wait to see what he hears next.

Mayer is a Grammy-winning musician

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