Arts & Life
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This article was published 18/6/2019 (422 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
There’s a moment in every show when pop superstar Shawn Mendes takes 15 or 30 seconds on stage to look out at the thousands of fans there supporting him on the biggest tour of his career, thus far.
● Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.
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"It’s overwhelming every single time, but that’s the best part about it... I probably just look like a crazy person standing there smiling with no context, or it looks exactly like it should. Somebody who sells out an arena with 20,000 people probably should stand there for 30 seconds and just take it all in, you know?" says Mendes over the phone last week, as he was preparing to kick off the North American leg of his Shawn Mendes: The Tour in Portland, Ore.
"It’s been a dream; it sounds super-cliché to say that but it’s genuinely a dream tour for a musician. The fans, the energy, there’s a real magic that I don’t know you get every tour that I’m experiencing right now. I’m hoping this happens every single time but it’s the first time I’ve felt like this."
Mendes, 20, has come a long way since his start posting six-second cover-song performances on the now-defunct Vine app, which led to a record deal in 2014.
Five years and three albums later, Mendes has become one of the biggest names in pop music: the Toronto-born singer-songwriter has released numerous Top 10 singles, won eight Juno Awards, 13 SOCAN awards, two American Music Awards, was nominated for two Grammys and, in 2018, was named one of Time’s 100 most influential people in the world.
"It’s been a dream, it sounds super cliché to say that but it's genuinely a dream tour for a musician. The fans, the energy, there’s a real magic that I don’t know you get every tour that I’m experiencing right now." –Sean Mendes
Despite Mendes’ success, pop music isn’t always the easiest path to musical legitimacy in the eyes of critics. While things are changing, the stigma of pop music being a lesser art form persists, and Mendes has felt this — even though he says he has made his peace with it.
"At first it is a little bit of a problem, but it’s only really a problem for your ego because it’s not truly a problem if it’s what you love," he said.
"And I think when I realized that the truth is, if I am sitting on my own in my bedroom and I’m listening to pop music and somebody tells me that I’m not a real musician because I sing pop music, who really cares? Because I truly love pop… I’d rather be doing this than something people think is cooler but I don’t love."
Mendes has writing credits on nearly every song in his catalogue, and says he always instinctively knows when a track has the potential to be big. He calls it a "giddy feeling that’s hard to explain, but it’s all gut," and it’s what he felt when working on If I Can’t Have You, the single he released last month that debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, his highest charting song to date.
The track isn’t tied to a record, but Mendes says there are always new projects and new albums in the works.
"There’s always a new album waiting in the wings, no matter what. No matter if there’s a single, no matter what, there’s always a new album because I don’t stop writing, I keep going, I keep writing and there’s always about 12 songs that are sitting there, deciding whether they are going to be a new album or singles or are they going to be my pathway to the new album," he said.
"There’s always something being worked on. And there will be stuff coming, I’m really excited about what’s coming up."
Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.
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