Oh, to be 21 and in love again. Thanks to Shawn Mendes, you can return to those feelings of discovery with his latest album, "Wonder."
Out Friday, it's sonically Mendes' most experimental work so far, as he tries on different vibes throughout the 14-song record, though he ultimately returns to his well-known acoustic sound and the theme of love.
In his Netflix documentary "In Wonder," released Nov. 23, Mendes shares background about recording the album and glimpses into his relationship with fellow musician Camila Cabello. Sure, fans get to see moments like Cabello dropping a kiss on Mendes' shoulder, but otherwise, the documentary kept things at surface level.
"Wonder" the album is more intimate. Mendes wrote or co-wrote every song on the record, which swings from shout-it-from-the-rooftop proclamations of love backed by full instrumentals to whispers of romance accompanied by the keys of a piano.
It also delves into the psychological side effects of fame. Mendes bounces between self-assured and not overthinking one moment and questioning everything around him in the next. It's a glittering exhale.
As Mendes tackles two major themes of love and fame, we take a look at his most telling lyrics on "Wonder."
The good, bad and ugly sides of love
"Wonder" starts and ends with Mendes keeping things simple. An otherwise rollercoaster of sounds and feelings is bookended by soft musings on "Intro" (more on that later) and "Can't Imagine."
Accompanied by a guitar, he waxes poetic about how he "Can't Imagine" a world without his love: "All the birds would stop their songs without you // All things right would feel so wrong … Without you, I’d always be alone // Without you I don’t know where to go."
Before that final song, the album functions in part as a complementary piece of the love story Cabello sang about on her sophomore album "Romance." "Higher" feels like a continuation of her 2019's sultry "Senorita" duet with Mendes. In the new song, he recounts a summer romance: "New York in the summertime // Getting close with a bottle of wine // Last year was a broken heart … You and me on the top of the roof // Slow dance in the light of the moon // Never thought it would get this far."
Young and in love: Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello confirm romance
"24 Hours" piggybacks off of the revelation from "In Wonder" that the couple lived together in a West Village apartment in New York while the world asked are-they-or-aren't-they? "Sign the check and the place is ours // It's a little soon, but I want to come home to you," he sings.
The poppy, '60s-esque "305" (a nod to Cabello's hometown of Miami) sounds like summertime at an amusement park: "I'm on a roller coaster ride, hoping you don't change your mind // I don't want to let go, I've never been so sure in my life." Mendes croons that his lover's "body's like an ocean I'm devoted to explore" on the smooth "Teach Me How to Love."
Mendes lets jealously show on "Piece of You": "I'm so into you it hurts // It just isn't fair what you put in the air, I don't want to share // Everybody wants a piece of you // I get jealous but who wouldn't when you look like you do?"
Mendes is sad and honest on "Song for No One": "Yesterday I got pretty drunk // Said something that I shouldn't have // Told you that I really love you // You did not reciprocate those feelings."
"You're the only one my heart keeps coming back to you," Mendes sings softly before the band swells behind the chorus of "Always Been You," clearly inspired by the grandiosity of "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" (he gushes over the Frankie Valli song during "In Wonder" and notes he told Cabello all his songs have been about her). On the synth-supported "Dream," Mendes sings: "I can't wait to get home // Head down on the pillow, holding you is all I think about."
And there's the wistful "Look Up at the Stars," sure to bring out lighters and cellphones at post-pandemic concerts: "You know we could fly so far, the universe is ours // I'm not gonna let you down."
Fame's impact on psyche, friendships
"Intro" serves as both a reminder to himself about being vulnerable and an invitation to listers to "give yourself a chance" and "get lost in wonderland." He sings: "They'll never understand // Unless you let them in."
"Intro" leads into the album's first single "Wonder," in which he, well, wonders about what his friends think of him, societal norms and the pressures of saying the wrong thing. A self-described small-town Canadian who "just loves music," Mendes' rise from Vine stardom to global pop idol weighs on him. "Haven't seen your faces in a while // I should call my friends // I should call my friends and go get high // I need a vacation from my life," he sings on "Call My Friends."
"Monster," the album's second single, sees Mendes teaming up with fellow former child star Justin Bieber to lament about the world putting them "on a pedestal" then turning around to pass judgment when they slip, fall, trip, or break, asking "Then am I the monster?"
Though Mendes hasn't gone the Bieber-route of a reformed partier, he hasn't escaped scrutiny. In August 2019, he apologized for past "racially insensitive comments" on social media. He's dealt with speculation over his sexuality and rumors he was faking his relationship with Cabello for publicity.
With its earnest take on love and fame, "Wonder" reminds listeners that Mendes is still a 22-year-old figuring it all out and that, despite his young age, he's making nuanced songs that pull on your heartstrings. Mendes lays himself bare on the album, leaving fans to wonder only what's next.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Shawn Mendes 'Wonder' album: Revealing lyrics on love, fame