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Track Review

Canadian singer Shawn Mendes just dropped an infectious pop track that feels like summer jam goals. Debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, “If I Can’t Have You” is all about a love interest that Mendes refuses to give up on. It’s either her or no one else.

If You’re Not Here, It Doesn’t Matter

Mendes launches in with emotional and confessional lines that are repeated throughout the entire song: “I can’t write one song that’s not about you/Can’t drink without thinkin’ about you," he tells us. "Is it too late to tell you that/Everything means nothing if I can’t have you?”

This is more serious than a simple case of unrequited love. Apparently there’s no point to anything in life if Mendes can’t get the girl of his dreams. A nice scenic view won't distract him (“I’m in Toronto and I got this view/But I might as well be in a hotel room”), nor can anything else because he’s so utterly smitten (“It doesn’t matter ‘cause I’m so consumed/Spending all my nights reading texts from you”).

Stalk much?

Mendes seems to know deep down that things aren't quite right (“I’m so sorry that my timing’s off"). But if there's even a chance she might still come around, he needs a sign from her now: "But I can’t move on if we’re still gonna talk.”

Never mind that the guy's acting a bit creepy in the way he's pursuing this reluctant woman: “Is it wrong for me to not want half?/I want all of you, all the strings attached.”

Then again, maybe we need to give him a bit more credit. I mean, he’s trying to get over her (“I’m trying to move on/Forget you, but I hold on”) by separating himself (“Oh, I'm good at keepin' my distance/I know that you're the feelin' I'm missing). But he always comes back to the same reality: “Everything means nothin' if I can't have you.”

Just a sweet guy in love, right? Right?

Gimme a Visual

Mendes’ video, shot entirely in black and white, focuses on the singer, a warehouse, a piano and a young woman. The camera pans in on Mendes’ face, then his entire body, lying on a couch in pants and a white tank.

Eventually, he makes his way to a randomly placed bed, climbs in, and is joined by a young woman (wearing sweats and a sports bra) who lies on the opposite side, facing away. The rest of the video captures his boyish charm as he goes from couch, to bed, to guitar, singing a tune that he hopes will capture the ear of, it seems from the video, his former lover.

As with many of Shawn Mendes’ songs, love (with a strong dose of suggestive sensuality in the video) is the central theme. “If I Can’t Have You” offers more of the same. It’s the kind of tune you’d expect to top the charts.

And this time around, the story that's being aimed at young fans is told from the point of view of a desperate man, mixing in alcohol and intimate allusions along the way.

Positive Elements

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Crude or Profane Language

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Debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Record Label

Island Records




May 3, 2019

On Video

Year Published



Kristin Smith

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