Canadian heartthrob Shawn Mendes released his fourth studio album, “Wonder,” on Dec. 4, delivering a vibrant, vulnerable coming-of-age story that ultimately fails to captivate for long.
Whimsical “Intro” opens the album with a fantastical vibe and the lyrics “So I guess I’ll have a chance to / Get lost in wonderland.” The track’s delicate piano progression and soft vocals remind me of Danny Elfman’s “Ice Dance” from the 1990 “Edward Scissorhands” soundtrack.
Building on the album’s theme of curiosity, title track “Wonder” presents listeners with a vulnerable Mendes — one I found endearing and relatable. Layering hard-hitting drums and harmonious backing vocals, the track delves into the depths of Mendes’ truth: “I wonder what it’s like to be my friends / Hope that they don’t think I forget about them.”
Delicate and soft, “24 Hours” infuses sweetly spoken vocals with minimal piano accompaniment. The lyrics, “But I’m not the type to overthink / When something feels so right,” stood out to me immediately because I am one to overthink myself. Beyond the track’s heartfelt lyrics, its production has an easy-going vibe I equally enjoyed.
“Higher” threw me off (in a bad way). Fiery and passionate, the track picks up the pace and features intense vocals that come off as overdone. Burdened by bland pop production, the track has even blander lyrics: “New York in summertime / Get close with a bottle of wine.”
Upbeat and exciting, “Call My Friends” spurred a spontaneous cry session. Whether the said session’s root was my hormonal cycle, the global pandemic or the track’s funky baseline, my tears served as proof of the song’s relatability. The lyrics, “I don’t wanna miss another birthday / Feels like it’s been forever since nineteen / I just wanna be right where you are,” encapsulate the disconnect and isolation many of us – even Shawn Mendes – are feeling during this time.
“Song For No One,” introduces a welcome acoustic side to the album. Starting out simple, the track gradually captured my attention with its use of cheerful horns, soothing strings and harmonious harp.
The album’s only collaboration, “Monster (Feat. Justin Bieber),” naturally blends the bold and relaxed style of Mendes and Bieber. The two explore the pitfalls of quick fame with lyrics like, “Fill me up with confidence, I say what’s in my chest / Spill my words and tear me down until there’s nothin’ left.” Although this was Mendes’ track, I thought Bieber’s care-free attitude stole the show.
Mendes experiments with various instruments on “Piece of You”, intertwining claps, warped electric guitar and synth keyboard progressions. While the track is Instrumentally interesting, its monotonous lyrics differ: “I get reckless, I’m obsessive / I’m pathetic and possessive.” I enjoyed the experimental and refreshing qualities of this track, though I wish more of the album sounded like “Piece of You.”
I was not particularly excited to listen to this album — and I was not particularly impressed with it either. That being said, I had a surprisingly enjoyable time listening to something I would not have otherwise selected. Some of the tracks unexpectedly won me over, and I am now a bit more of a Mendes fan than I was before. Although it was not necessarily my cup of tea, I would recommend “Wonder” to anyone looking for a cute yet lackluster love song record.