First gaining attention by posting covers of his songs on YouTube and other social media platforms when he was 14 years old, Canadian singer and songwriter Shawn Mendes already had a following well before releasing his full-length debut, Handwritten, in 2015.
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In a span of five years, Mendes skyrocketed into pop stardom.
After releasing his rendition of Justin Bieber’s 2012 hit, “As Long As You Love Me,” which pulled in more than 10,000 likes overnight for the young singer, by the spring of 2014, Mendes was signed to Island Records. That year, Mendes released his debut single “Life of the Party,” which debuted at No. 24 on the Billboard Hot 100, followed by The Shawn Mendes EP in July of 2014, which hit No. 5 on the Billboard 200.
Following the release of Handwritten and hit “Stitches,” Mendes kept the momentum with the follow-up, Illuminate, in 2016, and more hits, including “Mercy,” “Treat You Better” and “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back.”
Mendes’ third, eponymous album in 2018 featured a collective of collaborators, including Cabello, along with John Mayer, Ed Sheeran, Ryan Tedder, Julia Michaels, Khalid, and Johnny McDaid and more pop hits like “In My Blood” and “Lost in Japan.” The fourth album, Wonder, featured a duet with Bieber on “Monster,” along with singles “Wonder” and “Call My Friends.”
In between albums, Mendes also collaborated on a number of songs, including his then-girlfriend Cabello’s 2019 hit, “Señorita,” and has had a hand in writing nearly all of the songs within his expanding catalog.
Celebrating his impressive rise through pop along with his intuitive lyrics on everything from mental health, abuse, toxic masculinity, and the peaks and pitfalls of love, here’s a look at 10 of Mendes’ top songs.
1. “Stitches” (2015)
Written by Daniel “Daylight” Kyriakides, Daniel Parker, Teddy Geiger
Shawn Mendes’ 2015 debut, Handwritten, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, making him the tenth artist in history, under 18 years old, to top the chart. “Stitches” also peaked at No. 4, making it Mendes’ first top 10 single on the Billboard Hot 100.
2. “Mercy” (2016)
Written by Shawn Mendes Teddy Geiger, Danny Parker, Ilsey Juber
Following Handwritten, “Mercy,” off Mendes’ second album, Illuminate, was another hit and reached No. 15 on the Hot 100 chart. In the song, the narrator asks for mercy from his love, one that’s difficult to escape —You’ve got a hold of me / Don’t even know your power.
The video, directed by Jay Martin, illustrates Mendes’ claustrophobic lyrics, switching from scenes of him singing and drowning inside a car.
3. “Treat You Better” (2016)
Written by Shaw Mendes, Teddy Geiger, Scott Harris
The lead single on Illuminate, “Treat You Better” peaked at No. 6 on Billboard Hot 100. The song follows a young woman staying in an abusive relationship with her boyfriend. At its close, the video for the song featured the National Domestic Violence Hotline contact.
4. “I Know What You Did Last Summer” (2016)
Written by Shawn Mendes, Camila Cabello, Ido Zmishlany Noel Zancanella, Bill Withers
Featured on Handwritten Revisited, the 2016 reissue of Mendes’ debut lead single, “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” was also the debut single for Camila Cabello, who is featured on the track. The song reached the Top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Co-written by Mendes and Cabello, the song also samples Bill Withers’ 1971 soul hit, “Ain’t No Sunshine.”
Cabello described their song as a “conversation between two people in a relationship where it’s dying, but nobody wants to admit that it’s dying.”
5. “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back,” featuring Camila Cabello (2017)
Written by Shawn Mendes, Teddy Geiger, Geoff Warburton, Scott Harris
Featured on Mendes Illuminate deluxe edition, the more pop-rock “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back,” debuted at No. 6 on the Hot 100 and marked his second collaboration with Cabello, following “I Know What You Did Last Summer” (see above).
6. “In My Blood” (2018)
Written by Shawn Mendes, Geoff Warburton, Teddy Geiger, Scott Harris
A more personal song for Mendes, “In My Blood,” off his self-titled, third album addresses the artist’s struggle with anxiety. Mendes has always been very open about his mental health and how he has worked on combatting anxiety. “Therapy is what works for you, climbing a mountain,” shared Mendes. “Therapy is listening to music and running on the treadmill. Therapy is going to dinner with your friends. It’s something that distracts you, that helps you heal and so it just depends on what you think therapy is.”
Mendes added, “I made a conscious effort to be more connected to the people in my life. I found I was closing myself off from everybody, thinking that would help me battle it, then realizing the only way I was going to battle it was completely opening up and letting people in.”
7. “Lost in Japan” (2018)
Written by Shawn Mendes, Scott Harris, Nate Mercereau, Teddy Geiger
The more funk and R&B beats of “Lost in Japan” were inspired by more Justin Timberlake songs, according to the singer. “I had this dream that I was lost in this country,” said Mendes of how the song came to him, “and I woke up the next day and we had this cool piano part and the song was birthed.”
8. “If I Can’t Have You” (2019)
Written by Shawn Mendes, Teddy Geiger, Scott Harris, Nate Mercereau
The lead single from the deluxe edition of Mendes’ self-titled third album, “If I Can’t Have You” became is his highest charting song, reaching No. 2 on the Hot 100 and surpassing his debut single “Stitches.”
9. “Monster,” featuring Justin Bieber (2020)
Written by Shawn Mendes, Justin Bieber, Adam Feeney, Ashton Simmonds, Mustafa Ahmed
Peaking at No. 8 on the Hot 100, Mendes had his first collaboration with Justin Bieber on “Monster.” The two performed the song together for the first time at the American Music Awards in 2020. Lyrically, Mendes is reflecting on the downside of stardom.
“It’s about how society can put celebrities up on a pedestal and watch them fall,” revealed Mendes, “and it seems to be this entertainment thing. And it’s hard.”
10. “Wonder” (2020)
Written by Shawn Mendes, Scott Harris, Thomas Hull, Nate Mercereau
The title track off Mendes’ fourth album, “Wonder” addresses toxic masculinity. I wonder, when I cry into my hands / I’m conditioned to feel like it makes me less of a man / And I wonder if someday you’ll be by my side / And tell me that the world will end up alright sings Mendes.
The album debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 chart upon release.
Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Shawn Mendes