This week, wildfires across Canada burned up more than 10 million acres of land and counting, displacing tens of thousands of people and blanketing the entire East Coast with dense smog that turned the sky orange. As people panicked and/or memed through the apocalypse, Shawn Mendes seized the moment to drop new music. On Thursday, the Canadian singer (who has been on a break from recording since last year) shared a photo on Instagram of New York City’s molten skyline — the cover art for his new single, titled “What the Hell Are We Dying For?”
Taking the track name and the photo together, maybe you’re expecting some climate-crisis commentary from Mendes, but — not quite. While the song does kick off with mention of “smoke in the air” and a city “burnin’ down,” the narrative quickly takes a turn to describe a flailing relationship. Arguably not the best look for Mendes, given the broader context. Fans were quick to call him out, with many saying he was “ignorant,” “tone-deaf,” and “opportunistic.” So far, Mendes has not acknowledged any of that criticism, though he did explain the song’s genesis on social media: “Started writing this song yesterday morning with my friends in upstate New York & finished it only a few hours ago. Felt so important to me to share with you guys in real time.”
In an Instagram post announcing the new single, Mendes did urge fans to donate to the Canadian Red Cross, adding a link in his bio to the organization’s fire support page. And in one sense, the song is also of the moment, current-events-wise: Rumors have been swirling in recent days that Mendes and his longtime on-again, off-again girlfriend, Camila Cabello, are now off again. I guess Mendes can’t quite get the timing on that one right, either.