“Give yourself a chance to get lost in wonderland”, is how Canadian singer-songwriter Shawn Mendes ends the intro of his fourth studio album ‘Wonder’. From singing covers on Vine in a small bedroom at just fourteen to selling out several world tours, the 22-year-old singer has come a long way. Since his self-titled album, in 2018, Shawn continued to blossom as an artist, going from a shy brown-haired kid singing about heartbreak and strumming his acoustic guitar to a confident man experimenting with different sounds, styles, and influences.
‘Wonder’ is a fourteen-track journey of Mendes reinventing himself as an artist by taking on contrasting flavors of twinkling synths, massed harmonies, and chorale backing vocals. With his smooth voice and frequent flips into falsetto, the vulnerable and honest Toronto-based artist sings about his sweet romance with Camila Cabello, toxic masculinity, and the ups and downs of stardom.
The title track and lead single ‘Wonder’ is the perfect precursor of this album with its chorale vocals, bombastic percussion, and starry beat drops, as Mendes reflects on different aspects of his life and tries to escape reality.
With the sexy and intimate lyrics “Put my hands around you / Ooh, teach me how to / Touch you, tease, caress you, and please you / Teach me how to love“, R&B-influenced funky rhythms and 70’s drums, ‘Teach Me How To Love’ stands out immediately. While ‘Dream’ starts as nothing but a slow love-ballad right up Mendes’ lane, the song unfolds mid-way with fluttering synths, lovely harmonies, and a catchy beat. On ‘Piece Of You’ the singer addresses the jealousy and insecurities he faces as ‘everybody wants a piece’ of his famous girlfriend. The guitar solo, hard basses – that may remind you of a poppy version of ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ – and high-pitched vocals, make you want to dance like no one’s watching.
The album has a lovey-dovey rose-colored vibe. With songs like ’24 Hours’, ‘Always Been You’, and ‘Higher’, Mendes talks about his euphoric feelings of being in love for the first time. Apart from the serenades to his current girlfriend, ‘Look Up At The Stars’ is dedicated to his enormous fanbase with the heart-felt: “Look up at the stars, they’re like pieces of art / Floating above the ground / You know we could fly so far, the universe is ours / And I’m not gonna let you down.”
The lyrically strongest message on this album is by far the one on ‘Call My Friends’ and ‘Monster’, where the singer-songwriter talks about his experience with the highs and lows of fame, dealing with anxiety, and missing out on a lot of “normal teenage stuff” causing him to feel lonely.
The Canadian pop sensation closes his dynamic ‘Wonder’ with a minimalistic, stripped down, and tender ‘Can’t Imagine’, that feels kind of out of place – if not boring – on the album.
Even though some of Mendes’ musical ambitions feel a little bit too grandiose, the diversity in his sound makes it the most interesting music he has ever made. ‘Wonder’ lacks lyrical depth but bursts of artistic creativity by drawing outside of the standard lines of pop-culture.
Text by: Lien Joos