Telling his story. Shawn Mendes revealed that his single, “What the Hell Are We Dying For?” came after he was “struggling” with making music. The track, which was released on Friday, June 9, was written and recorded after a spark of “inspiration,” according to the singer.

“Honestly, in that moment, it felt like it was the first time I felt that in a year and a half in the studio. And I just think singing along to this organ and this Juno loop we created, and the words came out of me just like, ‘what am I dying for?'” Shawn recalled during an interview with Zane Lowe on Apple Music 1 following the song’s release. “I think it’s the most abstract I’ve been in a long time writing about multiple things at the same time.”

Keep reading for details on the song’s meaning and more. 

What Is Shawn Mendes’ ‘What the Hell Are We Dying For?’ About?

The “In My Blood” singer explained that the song came, “on the back end of feeling a lot of things about relationships, about my career, about environment.”

Initially, the song was speculated to be about the June 2023 Canadian wildfires and how the smoke had been traveling down to other places, including New York City. However, Shawn has since explained that the track has multiple meanings.

“I had this feeling of urgency, this feeling of, honestly, excitement, this feeling of connection, this feeling of this is me right now, this is how I feel right now,” he shared. “This feeling of frustration that I just wanted to express in music. And I think we were up there in New York, the sky was orange, the air was thick and the words were flowing. And this happened.”

Shawn Mendes 'What the Hell Are We Dying For?' Lyrics Explained, Breakdown
Matt Baron/BEI/Shutterstock

How Long Did It Take Shawn Mendes to Release ‘What the Hell Are We Dying For?’

The song was written, recorded and released in a 24-hour period.

“I think we had something like three minutes to hand the song in and we were mixing the final outro vocal with two minutes left. It was out of control,” Shawn recalled. “Getting in the booth and just singing like that, I don’t think I’ve been to a place like that since I was 18. There’s just this feeling that came back and my body, this adrenaline, this electricity, this excitement, this love for it that I hadn’t felt in so long.”

What Are the ‘What the Hell Are We Dying For?’ Lyrics?

“Smoke in the air, the city’s burnin’ down / I wanna speak, but I don’t make a sound / Locked in my mind, you’re all I think about / I wanna save us, but I don’t know how,” the first verse reads, seemingly lending itself to various meanings as Shawn has explained.

In terms of how it relates to his life, Shawn shared that he’s “quite confused about a lot of things in my life,” and the song is a representation of that. The singer said he loves “people in my life,” “music” and “this planet,” during the same Apple Music interview.

“All of those three things are something worth fighting for and worth dying for,” Shawn shared. “And I think that was where that energy was coming from.”

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