Review: Shawn Mendes returns with a gooey and amorous album
Shawn Mendes, “Wonder” (Island)
On his 14-track fourth album, Shawn Mendes is airy, grand, intense and rapturous. It is the sound of a man totally and hopelessly in love.
Adoration is baked into “Wonder,” from the almost religious-sounding title track as Mendes sings, “I wonder what it’s like to be loved by you," to the last song, where, with a voice shaking with emotion, he sings over acoustic guitar, ”I can’t imagine what a world would be without you." The album's cover captures Mendes ecstatic, floating in waves.
Though she is mentioned only once — in the liner notes, thanked right after his family — it's not hard to find the source of this ardor: Mendes’ longtime romantic and quarantine partner, singer Camila Cabello. Whatever happens to this couple in the future, she has inspired a hopelessly romantic set.
“Teach Me How to Love” flirts with ’80s disco (with Anderson .Paak on drums) and “305” (the area code to Cabello's Miami) is a candy-colored piece of '60s doo-wop in which Mendes sings to his lover, “If there’s a door to heaven, baby you’re the key.” The lovers are finding a new home to share in “24 Hours” — “It’s a little soon but I wanna come home to you,” he sings.
Mendes' falsetto soars with pure glee atop a pillow of strings on the standout “Look Up at the Stars” (where Mendes sings “the universe is ours” in a Coldplay “Yellow” way) and “Always Been You” is both soaring and triumphant. This is music you’d hear in a mall in heaven.
The only tune that veers out of the love zone is Mendes’ duet with Justin Bieber, “Monster,” an outstanding moody banger about how early fame messes with you, sung by a rising heartthrob singer-songwriter and an established one.
In-demand producer Kid Harpoon, who took Harry Stiles to new heights on “Fine Line,” is all over this gooey album. There's little of the urgency Mendes has shown before — no “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back” or ”In My Blood" — and “Wonder” is sometimes hard to take during extended plays — especially its pointless intro — but to find fault with it is to find fault with love itself.