Before the year of our Lord 2020 began, you would not catch me dead bumping Shawn Mendes. For the past five years he's been making music, he's made consistently bland singer-songwriter music that's boring at best and annoying at worst. But lately, Shawn's kinda been firing on all cylinders. His collaboration with Camila Cabello "Señorita" has grown on me a lot after the overplay wore off, with its tight hook and decent chemistry.
But the real driving forces behind my intrigue with this record were the two lead singles, the title track Wonder, and Monster. The former is a bit bland but nonetheless has a pretty euphoric drop and a very grand presentation. The latter, however, is a fantastic cut, with decent production, good writing, a cool outro, and a surprisingly memorable verse from Justin Bieber. So even though it is embarrassing to say out loud, I was pretty excited for this Shawn Mendes record.
And now, with Wonder arriving on this very day, I can finally say that Shawn Mendes has made something good.
As with most other 6/10s, Wonder features a relatively even mix of good, average, and bad tracks, scattered across the concise thirty-nine minute runtime of the record. Most of my enjoyment comes from the surprising amount of bops Shawn Mendes comes through with on the record, as a staggering amount of tracks here actually come through with a memorable groove and catchy chorus, Teach Me How to Love being a prime example of this. I was expecting Wonder to be filled to the brim with sonically beautiful yet boring songs, but it turns out Wonder has bops, and in spades.
Speaking of sonically beautiful, the production all across Wonder is actually really great. It ranges from the simple yet memorable bops I mentioned before, to the gorgeous and grand instrumentation of the ballads and the slower and more emotional tracks. Even though Shawn is his usual boring self on these ballads, the production behind him is just jaw-dropping. The great production makes the boring tracks a lot more bearable than they would be otherwise.
Unfortunately, even with the many great qualities of this record, there are a fair amount of problems I have with Wonder that prevents it from scoring any higher. The lyrics of the majority of songs here are still super basic, and though I can forget about them when I'm bopping my head, when a track goes for a more minimal and emotional sound the bad writing makes them super unengaging. Wonder also suffers from consistency problems, as you'd expect. Not all tracks here were created equal. Can't Imagine is also a genuinely terrible closer.
In conclusion, Wonder is a step in the right direction for Shawn Mendes. It features less of the non-charismatic sludge that plagued Shawn's prior releases and instead features some gorgeous production and some genuinely great bops. Though it suffers from consistency issues, has really bad writing, and the ballads are still mostly boring, Shawn's latest effort sees improvement on all fronts, and it's quite commendable. Maybe being hated on as much as Shawn Mendes was is good for the long run. Everyone go send AJR death threats right now.
Favorite Track(s): Intro, Teach Me How to Love, Dream, Monster, 305, Piece of You, Look Up at the Stars
Least Favorite Track: Can't Imagine