Mendes explores new styles with fourth album
December 5, 2020
Shawn Mendes, Vine star-turned-musician, returns to the spotlight with his fourth studio album, Wonder. He began his music career by posting acoustic covers on YouTube and adapted the sound into his own songs. Short guitar licks and effortless vocal runs became the signature style of Mendes, and gave him some of his top hits, such as “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back” and “Never Be Alone”.
His 2018 self-titled album introduced some variety with “Particular Taste” and “Lost in Japan”, but overall the tracks stayed uniform with Mendes’ previous music.
Wonder, however, introduces an entirely new side of Mendes’ musical talents with the very first track, titled “Intro”. In this 50 second opener, Mendes seems to be opening the door to the rest of the album. He sings, “Give yourself a chance to get lost in wonderland.” This line sets up the rest of the album as a series of wonderful melodies that explore the currents of Mendes’ creative mind.
The second track is titled “Wonder”, essentially the mother of the album. Mendes sees it as the most important song on the album from a lyrical perspective. It begins with heavenly vocals by Mendes, leaving the listener in awe. He questions different aspects of his life and puts himself in the place of people in his life.
The most powerful line of the song is, “I wonder what it’s like to be loved by you.” This song introduces the strong theme of romance throughout the album, along with the secondary theme of how he handles fame and fortune.
“Higher” starts to speed up the pace. Mendes reminisces on exciting times in his life, singing, “New York in the summertime. Get close with a bottle of wine.” The pulsating beat and Mendes’ discernable exuberance make this track a danceable anthem for the album.
Mendes reveals his strong feelings of love in the song “24 Hours”. The simple piano in the background places the emphasis on Mendes’ warm and genuine voice, delivering a sense of peace to this song. He alludes to Elvis Presley with the line, “Once a wise man said, ‘only fools go rushing in’ but I’m not the type to overthink when something feels so right.”
The most sensual song on the album is “Teach Me How to Love”, in which Mendes asks for guidance on how to treat his lover. He explores R&B and funk on this track, a new path for Mendes, and he sounds like he’s enjoying it. Harmonization and female vocals can be heard in the background of this energized tune.
The tempo switches up again with “Call My Friends”, in which Mendes sings about his loneliness of being on tour. It features taut songwriting and expansive production, which build up until the power-pop hook. The lyrics of this piece linger with the listener long after it concludes.
“Dream” continues with the feelings of loneliness, but this time concerning being apart from a lover. This song is beautifully achey, as Mendes reaches for his upper register as he sings, “All I have to is dream, dream, dream, dream about you.” He draws out the last “dream” to showcase his wide range of vocals, and it allows for a beautiful moment for the listener to dream themselves.
“Song for No One” is a ballad about unrequited love. He sings, “Yesterday I got pretty drunk, said some things that I shouldn’t have, told you that I really loved you. You did not reciprocate those feelings.” The acoustic finger-picking transforms into an orchestral setup, including a big-band spectacle, another element of this album that Mendes introduces for the first time.
Mendes got his inspiration for the track “305” from spending quarantine with his girlfriend, Camila Cabello, and her family. It features spring guitar lines and cheesy lyrics such as, “If there’s a door to heaven, baby, you’re the key”, which longtime fans may find familiar from his older music.
“Always Been You” is a perfect concert song, the righteously romantic centerpiece of this album. It allows for both head banging and soft head swaying. The “ooo-OOOH!” outro is a pleasurable line for fans to scream with Mendes in an arena.
On the track “Piece of You”, Mendes explores his jealousy concerning his pop-star girlfriend. He sings, “I’m sorry if I get protective, need these boys to get the message, you know I’m yours and I know you’re mine.” The envious lyrics paired with the synth-rock tune make for a song filled with sass and flare.
Mendes once again shows off his romantic side in the thirteenth track of Wonder, “Look Up At The Stars”. He sings of hope and harmony with the love of his life with the line, “So let me spend the night in wonderland with you.” The reference to wonderland in this song starts to bring some closure to the work of art that is Wonder.
Last but most certainly not least is “Can’t Imagine”. This track brings the album back full circle. The breathy, raw vocals are seen as a stylistic choice by Mendes to give the listener a deeper look into his life. It ends with Mendes saying, “Cool. That’s good for now.” This understated line has an overwhelming effect that makes the listener reflect a little deeper on this album.
Mendes succeeded in his new explorations on this album, showing off his wide range in genres. Focused greatly on love and adoration, Mendes fans will surely love this album as much as his past three. Whatever new style Mendes decided to try out next, it can be expected that he will adopt it with flying colors in a wonderful fashion.