Shawn Mendes is a Pop Singer, Not a Pop Star

Karl Ortegon
2 min readNov 6, 2020


Photo credit: Glen Luchford

I am open to the forthcoming Shawn Mendes documentary changing my mind upon watching, but I don’t think it will deter me from a core belief of mine: Shawn Mendes is a pop singer, not a pop star.

What he is

  • charismatic/a heartthrob (to some…)
  • in a relationship with another young pop singer (no, Camila is not a star either)
  • signed to a subsidiary (Island Records) of Universal Music Group, an enormous label that can promote the shit out of him

What he is not

  • iconic in any way
  • unique
  • a trendsetter (via fashion, his music/sound, his politics or personality)

Look, Mendes makes hits! People more or less know who he is. ‘Lost in Japan’ does something to me, I’ll admit.

But after watching the music video for ‘Wonder,’ and the trailer for his documentary to come, I realized I have no idea who he is or what he stands for.

The trailer literally bent over backwards to present Mendes as the ‘everyday guy’ who inhabits some comfortable level of normalcy and it’s like, we know! We are well aware that he is ‘normal’ — and to an excruciating, sanitizing degree.

Then I thought, perhaps it’s deeper: it’s not that we don’t know who Shawn Mendes is, per se, it’s that there isn’t more to know. That’s all there is to Shawn Mendes. His normalcy bobs lazily at the surface of his personhood, betraying no further substance underneath. Maybe there is nothing for us to unlock, no enigmatic identity to discover.

I am not attempting a character assassination. Mendes’s story is cute enough; he was big on Vine when Vine was at its apex, he capitalized on his own image (like, primarily how he looks) and his singer-songwriter aesthetic. He’s put out a plethora of lovesick jams which, usually, are commercially successful. But what is he? Who is he? Right now he’s doing a pisspoor mimicry of Harry Styles’ stadium pop-rock aesthetic but without the magic. Like, what else, guy!?

I find myself waiting and waiting and waiting on some big reveal; I don’t think the documentary is going to deliver on that.



Karl Ortegon

Social media manager, copywriter, comedian based in NYC.