Who Is Shawn Mendes?
Shawn Mendes is a Canadian pop singer and songwriter. After uploading a series of his cover versions to various video-sharing sites (beginning with the now-defunct video-sharing application Vine in 2012), Mendes earned a dedicated following that he cultivated through social media outlets. His talent, teen-idol good looks and built-in fan base quickly landed him a record deal. In 2014, his debut single, "Life of the Party,” hit the Billboard 100 singles chart at number 24, making the then 15-year-old Mendes the youngest artist to land a debut single in the Top 25.
Although he has been dubbed “the next Justin Bieber” — both are good-looking, precociously successful and Canadian — his acoustic, earnest and catchy songs are much more in keeping with his idol Ed Sheeran’s musical style and Mendes quickly transitioned to writing his own songs. His loyal fans (of mostly tween and teenage girls) have supported his seven platinum-selling hits, as well as arena-size world tours, both as an opening act for Taylor Swift and as a headliner.
Shawn Mendes Songs and Albums
'Stitches' Hits the Top 10
In 2014, Mendes released his four-track Island Records debut, The Shawn Mendes EP and it reached No. 5 on the Billboard charts with sales topping 100,000. In 2015, he released his full-length debut, Handwritten, which came out at No. 1 in both Canada and the U.S. The single "Stitches" became one of Mendes' biggest hits, reaching the Top Ten in the U.S. and Canada and topping the charts in the U.K. and Germany. In addition, his single "Believe" landed on the soundtrack for the Disney Channel fantasy musical Descendants.
Mendes and Camila Cabello: 'I Know What You Did Last Summer'
While opening for Taylor Swift on the North American dates of her 1989 World Tour, Mendes and Fifth Harmony's Camila Cabello collaborated on the song "I Know What You Did Last Summer," which appeared on the deluxe version of Handwritten that was released in November 2015; the song reached the Top 20 on the U.S. and Canadian Hot 100 charts.
'Illuminate' and World Tour
The Top 10 single "Treat You Better" preceded Mendes' second album, Illuminate, which was released in September 2016. Unlike Handwritten, he is credited as a songwriter on every track, which he called a mix between Ed Sheeran and the John Mayer album Continuum. The album debuted at No. 1 in the U.S. and Canada, where it also achieved platinum status.
The digital-only Live at Madison Square Garden arrived in December 2016. Mendes launched a massive world tour in the spring of 2017 and achieved another Top 10 single with "There's Nothing Holdin' Me Back." He also delivered the live acoustic record MTV Unplugged.
Starting Out on Vine
Vine was a six-and-a-half-second video-sharing service that launched in June 2012. That August, a then 14-year-old Mendes uploaded a clip of himself singing an acoustic version of Bieber’s “As Long as You Love Me.” He logged on to his account the next morning to find that it had 10,000 likes — and his follower count had gone through the roof.
Mendes is now something of a poster boy for how to become a superstar in the social media era and an example of how the music business now assimilates new artists. Through Vine, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram, he built a massive, grassroots fandom. He is also dedicated to interacting with his fans on an almost daily basis.
Mendes’ cover renditions caught the attention of his now-manager, Andrew Gertler, who convinced the singer and his father to come to New York and sign with Island Records. He was impressed with the drive Mendes showed from the beginning, noting that he’s always been really wise beyond his years. “He’s grown immensely in the last year,” Gertler said in a September 2017 interview with Billboard. “His musical abilities have grown. His vocal abilities, his guitar playing. …I’ve seen him go from the kid who’s playing an acoustic guitar to an amazing front man with a band and, to me, a modern-day version of a rock star.”
Not only was Mendes discovered by posting his performances on the Internet, he actually taught himself to play guitar via YouTube.
“I would type in things like, “How to play beginner songs on guitar,’” he said in an interview with The Telegraph. “I taught myself these chords and slowly started to get the hang. I was obsessed with it. Every day I’d play and think, I’m not good enough yet; I need to get better. Then I’d play for hours and hours.”
His obsession with watching YouTube covers is what led him to post his own across social media. He became determined to pursue it, and also started taking vocal lessons.
Early Years and High School
Shawn Peter Raul Mendes was born on August 8, 1998 in Toronto, Canada to Karen and Manuel Mendes. He and his younger sister, Aaliyah, grew up in Pickering, Ontario, a Toronto suburb, where he attended Pine Ridge Secondary School, played ice hockey and soccer and took acting lessons. Though he left school in his junior year to go on tour, he kept up with his homework via online courses and was able to graduate with his class in June 2016. Despite being a global super star, he is not yet out of his teens and retreats to his childhood home to spend time with his family when he is not on the road.
Mendes and his team plan to dedicate most of 2018 to working on his third studio album. “We have spent a month in Los Angeles,” Mendes told NME in November. “I think people will be surprised, but I’m not sure about the sound yet. I’m still exploring and trying to figure myself out. Anything is possible.”