Vine celebrity Shawn Mendes finally scores an album with Island, and Handwritten is the result. His original tunes turn out to be emo-drenched lovelorn affairs. If we take away his youth, these songs could be mistaken for something Five for Fighting would put out for lonely and unhappy people to get soused to at 3 am in the morning.
Even when he’s telling someone to take a shot on him and just take the plunge in Life of the Party, he is oozing melancholy from every note. Or maybe it’s just the way he generally enunciates when he sings that makes him seem permanently dour, hmm. This works to his advantage here, though, because Handwritten is full of fabulously tuneful songs that can stick to the head and refuse to leave. The best song here is Stitches, which is about coping during the aftermath of a destructive relationship, and the upbeat backing track and production values are a fabulous contrast to the mournful vocals. Mr Mendes’s tendency to sound like a depressed foghorn works like a charm here – it’s so easy to imagine him bleeding from every orifice as he crawls along the floor and sings this song, and the whole image is pretty evocative in a gloriously twisted manner.
A song on feeling validated after being dumped by the girl, Aftertaste, takes on a different tune with Mr Mendes’s tendency to sound all emo – this song can be easily be interpreted as a deranged stalker’s anthem with lines like:
Turns out that no one can replace me
I’m permanent, you can’t erase me
I’ll help you remember me
One more kiss is all it takes
Yes, he’s so going to break into her place like a villain in a slasher movie.
Songs like Air, Crazy, and the rest tend to sound a little similar after a while, but they are all songs with good hooks and solid vocals. As a result, Handwritten is a very listenable album with very few dull spots. This is a collection of songs that could have been sung by a creepy-looking fellow sulking in the corner who would most likely turn out be a serial killer, but there is something compelling about his singing that draws you to him nonetheless. Start with Stitches, and it’s all good from that point.