Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello's relationship hit the world like a wrecking ball. One day, Mendes and Cabello were swearing up and down that they were just collaborating besties. The next, they were making out in a pool in Miami. I wouldn't say the relationship came out of nowhere (they have too much history to say that), but they sure didn't waste any time easing the public into the idea of them dating. But you know what? I respect that. How quickly Mendes and Cabello went public with their romance actually makes me wonder: Have they been into each other for longer than anyone knows? Could their music before their romantic relationship began hint at what was to come? To put it bluntly: Is Shawn Mendes' "If I Can't Have You" about Camila Cabello?
Well, the lyrics are all about having all-consuming feelings for someone that you're close to, but not being able to express them to that person. And if the song is about an actual person in Mendes' life (rather than just a song he wrote about love), a closer look into the lyrics reveals that there's a strong possibility that Mendes got inspiration from his relationship with Cabello.
The song starts with the chorus, which goes:
I can't write one song that's not about you / Can't drink without thinking about you / Is it too late to tell you that / Everything means nothing if I can't have you?
These lyrics are pretty vague, which makes sense since the idea behind love songs is to make them relatable to as many people as possible, and everyone can relate to feeling so strongly for someone that everything else pales in comparison. Still, there's nothing in Mendes' lyrics so far that hints the song is about Cabello specifically.
Verse one of the song, however, seems to establish that whoever the song is about is someone that Mendes was 1) not dating at the time he wrote the song, and 2) was comfortable enough to text late at night. The lyrics go:
I'm in Toronto and I got this view / But I might as well be in a hotel room, yeah / It doesn't matter 'cause I'm so consumed / Spending all my nights reading texts from you
Cabello fits the bill here. While the pair didn't start dating until very recently, they've been friends and musical collaborators (and presumably comfortable with texting each other at any time) since Mendes and Fifth Harmony opened for Austin Mahone on his self-titled tour back in 2014 (oh, how times have changed).
The pre-chorus and verse two of "If I Can't Have You" may also hint that Mendes' feelings for Cabello were very complicated if the song is, in fact, about her. The pre-chorus goes like this:
Oh, I'm good at keeping my distance / I know that you're the feeling I'm missing / You know that I hate to admit it / But everything means nothing if I can't have you
And verse two goes:
I'm so sorry that my timing's off / But I can't move on if we're still gonna talk / Is it wrong for me to not want half? / I want all of you, all the strings attached
Mendes does not explicitly name anyone in the lyrics, but if the song is about Cabello, the lines about keeping his distance and his timing being off could hint that Mendes has been pining for Cabello over the past few years but kept his distance for whatever reason. Perhaps because he was shy? (I can relate.) And then, even if he did realize he wanted to make his feelings known, Cabello was in a relationship with Matthew Hussey from February 2018 to around July 2019, which could have prevented him from revealing his feelings.
The song goes into the bridge next, which basically expresses that he's trying to move on and forget whoever the song is about, but he just can't. The lyrics go,
I'm trying to move on, forget you, but I hold on / Everything means nothing, everything means nothing, babe / I'm trying to move on, forget you, but I hold on / Everything means nothing if I can't have you, no
Hmmmm... In the end, there's no way to know if the song is about Cabello definitively, but considering the song is about someone Mendes was close to and harbored feelings for for a long time, Cabello does seem to be the most likely muse — especially Mendes and Cabello took their friendship to the next level shortly after Cabello split from Hussey.
If it's not about Cabello, then I really don't have a clue who else it could be about and I give up. You can listen to the song below and decide for yourself.