Friday, October 23rd, 2020

Shawn Mendes – Wonder

I heard his next single is in fact called “Please Take Me Seriously.”


Juana Giaimo: “Wonder” seems to scream “Please, take me seriously,” with lyrics that are about finding it difficult to express himself, toxic masculinity, the fear of losing friends, what it’s like to be loved and also how the world is a hard place to live in (yes, all that in one song). For some reason, he thought he wasn’t being melodramatic enough so he also added a backing choir. 

Scott Mildenhall: Almost wonderful, but that bit too incohesive for a smooth ascent to the heights it desires. The lyrics are as on-the-nose as could be expected, but that doesn’t come at the cost of craft: the “hands”/”man” couplet shows that the broadest of brushes can still stroke with elegance. Bold, quasi-spiritual ballads can be fun, and so can the kilter-shake of uncomplicated pop. “Wonder” grapples for both, and for the most part they’re in hand.

Michael Hong: The problem is that we’ve sat through enough horny collaborations, tabloid drama, and even an album titled Romance, that second-guessing Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello’s relationship isn’t really possible. The chorus swallows everything up and every other question is drowned out by its main one. Sure, most of those were generic in their relatability, while others are built on false premises, but at least they were worth trying to answer.

Thomas Inskeep: He used to be John Mayer for teenage girls: annoying, easy to ignore. But now he’s moved into bombastic Jim Steinman territory, but without good songs.

William John: I’m not sure arena rock suits Shawn Mendes best; I prefer “Lost In Japan” and its airy, Phoenix-like shuffle, or even something with the manic urgency of “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back.”  He’s bogged down by a drab chorus here, and his words seem like they’re plagiarised from any given 2012 Tumblr post, stylised in a typewriter font.

Tim de Reuse: You’re conditioned to feel less like a man when you cry into your hands, huh? A calculated, lukewarm sentiment, barely connected to the rest of the song, surrounded by self-congratulatory bombast. How obnoxious it is to celebrate the act of wonder in the abstract, especially when your canvas is another quiet-loud-quiet-loud Imagine Dragons situation — come back when you can string your delicate profundities into a coherent throughline.

Jackie Powell: Lyrically there’s a lot going on in “Wonder.” Is this a song where Shawn Mendes reflects on the life he’s created for himself, assessing its costs and convolutions, or is this a love letter to Camila Cabello? I guess it’s both, but the story arc is less fluid in it’s transition from theme one (the verses) to theme two (the choruses). He took a similar approach with “In My Blood,” the lead single of his previous self-titled record. But “Wonder” feels a little bit scattered and less connected. Even in the overwhelmingly cinematic music video treatment for this track where Mendes hops from a Harry Potter inspired train to the middle of a forest and then on top of a cliff adjacent to a geyser, this feels forced and disjointed. I understand what he’s going for here: another vulnerable stadium anthem power ballad that soars in a Coldplay or Kings of Leon-ish way. Teddy Geiger co-wrote a better song with Mendes that had the same exact goal. In his half of a decade career, Mendes has proved how he differs from his peers who began on the internet. But, I just don’t know if the composition and final product of “Wonder” advances his development. Do we learn anything new here besides a tiny bit more about his love for Cabello? It doesn’t show us evolution, but maybe his Netflix documentary will? But that too doesn’t seem as focused as it could be. Although, I’ll give Mendes and Scott Harris this: I appreciate the melody of the lyrics “right before I close my eyes/The only thing that’s on my mind/Been dreaming that you feel it too” is sung in thirds. It creates an apogee on the track, but I walk away still wondering if I’ve indeed heard this too.

Alfred Soto: With the conviction of a showbiz hoofer who knows about life through other songs, Shawn Mendes creaks like a worn floorboard from the effort of convincing listeners that crying makes him less a man.

Brad Shoup: In 2020, a soaring piano ballad the begins and ends with stirring choral arrangements gets out in under three minutes. That’s a mid-oughts Sufjan move. I half expected Kanye to wander in for eight bars of profundity, right before a Westward lurch: the drummer leans into it; a scream echoes from the Negative Zone. One or six more minutes would do the trick. 

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