Shawn Mendes is the music I listen to at 3 AM when I am doing homework. That’s just it. I learned all of his music freshman and second year of college while I was staring at the white emptiness of a Word Document. I like to think that if I can listen to entire albums while doing homework without skipping any songs, it is a great album. Both of Shawn’s albums have been that for me.
Winter quarter of second year, my roommate and I decided on a whim to take a bus down to the Staples Center and buy tickets for his show in July. The concert was always in the back of my mind, especially because I had made a commitment to go to a concert in the summer without having solidified my summer plans, and my Dad had raised me trying to instill the belief that the Staples Center was too giant to enjoy any kind of event. I should have realized that the biggest venue I would probably ever be in was the Rose Bowl, and the Staples Center really was not that large. But things worked out, and here I am in the middle of July, living and working in Los Angeles, and I just got back from the Shawn Mendes concert.
It was really great. I loved the teenage fangirl vibes that I grew up with chasing the Jonas Brothers, Big Time Rush, and One Direction. But I definitely felt separated from the Shawn Mendes fan base. Right now, I’m going to talk about how this concert was a different experience from my past concert experiences that have taken place over the summer.
I bought this ticket myself, after taking two buses to DTLA and walking down streets I wasn’t familiar with on a bright December day. I think this was one of my first big purchases with my then-new job money. It wasn’t a graduation reward, a vacation activity, or a granted wish to calm my obsessing over some boyband. I looked at the calendar, realized that I very much enjoy Shawn Mendes’ music, and thought, “I am going to go to this.”
After an extremely stressful yet somewhat-productive second half of my second-year of college, I was ready to let loose at a Shawn Mendes concert. It was my reward, but it was my reward to myself. I realized that I wanted to go to this concert to be able to scream out song lyrics and feel the hype of hundreds of other people around me. I wanted a little adrenaline rush from the place that has never failed to make me happy.
Overall, I wanted to build a different phase of my life around what it meant to attend a concert that I had decided to go to myself and fund myself, and so I constructed what I called the “Hoe Outfit,” which was just a flowy, cropped, thin-strap tank top from H&M that I told myself I would try on for fun, and ended up liking it a lot, but not feeling like I would be accepted in the style. So I decided to go for it, since this was the concert of truth.
The biggest difference between my past concert experiences that I meticulously documented in my own scrapbooks at home is that this concert was for me to experience myself in concert, while listening to Shawn Mendes. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to see Shawn Mendes, but I was equally excited to know that I was in an environment that truly made me happy. I wanted to know that I was capable of creating an event for myself, giving it more reason than social media bragging rights, and that I didn’t chicken out about wearing a spaghetti tank top and letting my cleavage out for the first time in my life.
So that was my explanation for the more personal reason that I wanted to attend this concert and make it about me. Next I will get to the Shawn Mendes part.
When my Dad saw the Jonas Brothers in concert, he never stopped raving about Nick Jonas being the most talented, with just a guitar. To this day he loves Nick Jonas. He thought Nick Jonas was the Michael Jackson of the Jonas Brothers. Shawn Mendes is like that. Okay, wait, Nick Jonas and Shawn Mendes are not Michael Jackson, but Shawn Mendes is incredibly and extremely talented with just a guitar and a voice that rifs like no other. It is other-worldly how he wakes up every day and just goes for it with full concerts and never-ending vocal rifs. Those rifs. He’s got like the thickest, strongest voice I think I have ever heard in a 18-year-old boy/kid/guy and it’s so pleasing to hear him sing “Ohhhh.”
My favorite song is “Ruin,” most notably because last month I woke up from a Harry Styles dream and IN MY SLEEP I managed to put on “Ruin” and woke up sad that it was just a dream, but also because of the lyrics. And boy, let me tell you. Shawn Mendes had me going from 0 to 100 when he performed “Ruin” live.
First, he took me to 0. There are only so many times you can wail “Do I ever cross your mind?!” before you begin to rapidly internalize that message and think about if anyone is actually answering that question in your own life. Shawn was trying to get the crowd to copy his vocal rifs and you bet I was up in the nosebleed stands with my perfect copying, but damn, I had tears in my eyes by the end of the song from singing that line too many times. The line “Do I ever cross your mind?” is something that I think famous teenage musicians write songs about for at least one album, and it’s a stereotypical question that any little kid going through puberty and analyzing their attractions to other people ask themselves, or ask other people. And Shawn Mendes manages to capture that desperation, lust, hope, and feeling of already-unrequited love in the exact words “Do I ever cross your mind?” I have asked that question to myself in times of dumb pursuits, and serious inquiries since I was little, and Shawn Mendes manages to open the floodgates of questioning self-worth every time with “Ruin.”
Then he took me to 100, or somewhere above 0 with his piano playing underneath an inflatable moon. That was cute. I was impressed with how well the lighting and graphics of the show work with his songs. I think his piano version of “Life of the Party” is better than the original. And the rest of the concert I just swayed in awe of his musical talents and vocal rifs.
It was a good concert. Every single song was sung along to and you could tell he was really pleased about that. I know he has a big career ahead of him. But I think I am over the majority of my fangirl antics (minus some things, because I’m still seeing Harry in concert and most likely Niall), and I don’t need to know that many things, I just need to know that the music has extremely impacted my life in some way. Shawn Mendes has been my 3 AM friend telling me to be better at writing papers, to have high expectations for myself, and to also be in-touch with my feelings even when what I’m feeling is not something that I want to feel.
I sat outside the tour buses with other girls and I was going to wait until he came out, but I realized that I’ve waited for performers after concerts and it usually does not end with me meeting them, but watching them run past me and wave and hop into a bus of a world that I do not belong to. As a twenty-year-old with more responsibilities than I did as a fourteen-year-old chasing the One Direction tour bus, I don’t need or want to be a part of that world anymore. I have my own world to worry about. So I didn’t stay to try to see him.
It is 2 am and I’m listening to his setlist again, and I don’t have that mournful teenybopper post-concert depression that I used to get when I would see One Direction or Big Time Rush. I understand that financially another Shawn Mendes concert would not be good. I understand that there is no going back, so you have to enjoy every sweet moment as much as possible because it could all be taken from you at any point. But it was a good concert, and I feel good about everything.