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Every year comes another internet sensation that makes the girls croon and pisses off all of the guys. First it was Bieber, now it's Shawn Mendes. His debut album Illuminate isn't as bad as it may seem when it starts, but quickly becomes the boring, bland album you'd expect from him.
As I mentioned before, the start of the album is pretty good - and so is the end. The blues pop track 'Ruin' opens it up, a sweet guitar lick repeating throughout the song, reverberating around above a sweet bassline and simple drum beat as Mendes croons above as he tries to convince a girl that he's the one that's meant for her. Typical, but it's the first song of its kind on the record, plus it has a chill instrumental, so we'll let it pass.
Things pick up with appeal when 'Mercy' kicks in, the intro piano having the same drama of Adele's 'Hello' before a guitar line comes in to help build the song up to its big chorus, Mendes begging "Please have mercy on me / Take it easy on my heart / Even though you don't mean to hurt me / You keep tearing me apart" above cavernous drums. The drumming keeps the drama flowing, the backing vocals adding another layer of sweet melody to the song. The bridge takes a quick reprieve where Mendes sounds confident and hopeful before the song builds back up for one big final chorus. 'Treat You Better' has the same appeal with a different structure. The muted plucked guitars lead the first verse into its poppy chorus with its strong vocals and great melody. Mendes sounds pretty passionate in the choruses, which is refreshing - and almost misleading based on much of the rest of the record.
The ending of the record is also fairly good. There really isn't any meat to the album - the beginning is the first taste and the end is the bittersweet final bite, but the meal in between is largely unfulfilling. After a series of boring and downright bad songs, 'Hold On' brings back the sweet acoustic guitars found earlier on the album. The message of the album is pretty sad - the song is basically all choruses, but one of them begins with "And my dad says Shawn stay with me / Everything will be alright / And I know I haven't seen you lately / But you're always on my mind," which is pretty dark and depressing considering the rest of the album's cockiness about love. 'Roses' is the much the same, a sadder track that instead capitalizes on piano and sweet basslines. The song builds up with anthemic drumming, which fall out at the end to bring the album to a retrospective conclusion.
The problem with the album is with its core. It's beginning and end are good, but the album is build like a rotten sandwich. The promise of 'Three Empty Words', an acoustic song that is, albeit, a bit boring but has a nice sentiment is lost as the album goes forward. Mendes literally cannot write about anything but him being the best guy out there for a girl. 'Don't Be A Fool' has groove and dynamic guitars, but the love songs are getting old.
They don't end there. While 'Mercy' made have had tones of Adele, 'Like This' is literally a straight rip off. On top of that, there isn't a single pop artist that doesn't have a song like this. It's an old and overdone idea. So many tracks are just boring or lame concepts that have no ground and reprise the same goddamn message about wanting to have love. Nothing beats the stupidity of 'Understand' - an overdone song with a cringey spoken word section that's literally the most cliché stance he could've taken on the subject of change. It's unbelievable how blatantly unpoetic and uncreative it is.
Shawn Mendes should've stuck with YouTube. Songs of his style work better as standalone releases rather than the collection of subpar tracks Illuminate is. It starts promising, turns to utter crap, then ends sweetly. Sadly, there's not enough good on this album to justify the bad. Mendes, you tried. You didn't not succeed on this one.
Favorite Tracks: Mercy, Treat You Better
Least Favorite Tracks: Understand, Patience, Honest, Lights On, No Promises
Rating: 42 / 100