True to his mysterious and always alluring nature, The Weeknd dropped his new EP My Dear Melancholy, today, which sees him return to his darker and more intimate roots, lifting his signature brooding and anguish to new emotional heights.
Teased last week, My Dear Melancholy, comes as the surprise follow up to 2016’s immensely successful Starboy, and almost 7 years to the day after the galvanising debut mixtape House of Balloons. Consisting of just 6 tracks, all teaming with tortured lyrics, detailing sex, drugs, and breakups, there are no obvious hit singles like Starboy, or I Can’t Feel My Face here. But buried under clouds of sad synths and downcast beats, it’s still some of the best material he’s released in years.
Opening track is Call Out My Name, which finds 28 year old Abel Tesfaye‘s sultry vocals singing to us from a place of clear vulnerability, he’s the Beetlejuice of R&B here – he’ll appear if you call his name. It’s passion in a bottle – punchy production, aching lyrics, and haunting vocals. Abel is DEEP in his feels. Third track Wasted Times shows us a new Abel, one of growth and maturity, who shows remorse for his cheating and his lying – hi new Abel who dis???? Minimalistic production wins here too. If it’s one thing you can always rely on, it’s for The Weeknd to deliver an after-hours anthem. Music for when you’re alone and it’s late and you’re swimming deep in that ocean of emotion – “I don’t want to wake up if you aren’t laying next to me“. It’s almost like he wrote this one in Marvin’s Room.
I Was Never There enlists the help of French producer and Yeezus collaborator Gesaffelstein, and is a little more lively than the former tracks, starting out in the dark but gradually letting the light in. The production is richly textured here, layering dreamy vocals and reverb with synths and a crawling bass line – The Weeknd’s voice is the anchor here that ensure it all works. Half way through the track is inverted and swaps in keys before giving Abel the opportunity to reveal the true soaring heights of his vocal abilities. My Dear Melancholy, closes on Privilege where muted piano frames the confirmation that this is definitely an EP born out of a break-up – and a painful one at that, “we said our last goodbyes, so let’s just try to end it with a smile“. The wounds are clearly still fresh on Privilege, “I’ve got two red pills to take the blues away“, “Imma fuck the pain away and I know I’ll be okay“, “Imma drink the pain away, I’ll be back to my old ways” – we’ve apparently reached the point in the breakup where you over-indulge in all manner of vices as if that’ll actually help the situation at all. (It won’t, FYI). These aren’t new themes for The Weeknd, drugs, drink, and casual sex have always been very present in his work thus far, only this time he isn’t boasting, this time he’s desperately seeking methods to combat how hurt he is.
My Dear Melancholy, doesn’t overwhelm the listener, it’s cohesive and the tracks are reflective and remorseful, each sharing a darkness and an intimacy that was largely absent on the behemoth 18-track-long Starboy. It succeeds in being emotional and open, without making you feel like you’re stuck in the world’s worst DMC with someone you’ve never met before. It’s a nostalgic return to where Abel built his universe, long before he was the motherfuckin’ Starboy we know and love today.