Abel Tesfaye, otherwise known as The Weeknd, is one of the most versatile artists in today’s music world. The numbers and accolades back it up. He’s just as much of a pop artist as is he an R&B singer.
The Canadian native knew what he was doing when he released Starboy in late 2016. That project was a slight surprise for his diehard fans, who usually expect soulful and grandiose performances from Tesfaye. For others though, Beauty Behind the Madness acted as a foreshadowing of the direction Abel was going towards.
Nonetheless, Starboy was a smash hit, both critically and commercially. Rather than hiding his pain and whininess through R&B songs, The Weeknd instead turned up on more hip hop-oriented tracks such as, “Party Monster,” and “Reminder.” With an even larger fanbase, Tesfaye had a stranglehold on the entire industry.
Everything that he released following that 2016 project equated to pure pop and hip hop. Even “Pray For Me” was a very run-of-the-mill radio hit. Which is why many were surprised to see his newest EP, My Dear Melancholy, turn out to be more impassioned and soulful.
Rather than calling on Daft Punk and Max Martin for electronic production, Abel instead turned to Against All Logic’s Nicholas Jaar (who’s been making waves with his own impressive album) to create nostalgia for the diehard fans.
The Weeknd’s shadowy and somber album cover says it all. Listeners already know what to expect before diving into the actual music. After another break-up, this time with Selena Gomez, the dramatic Abel was about to come out. And, boy did he ever.
Personally, his willingness to sound like an angsty teenager doesn’t bother me. He’s always been like that, and I’ve still enjoyed his music.
What did bother me about My Dear Melancholy, was the repetitiveness, not only between songs on this record, but also with regards to previous albums released. Sure, Starboy was a pure pop record with little lyrical content, but the production was undeniably memorable.
On his most recent effort however, many of the songs seem like throwaways or previously unreleased tracks. On top of that, we’ve heard this same sob story from him on other singles. The very bombastic “Call Out My Name,” sounds very similar to his massive hit, “Earned It.” His ability to add some interesting vocal effects by the final time through the chorus did electrify the song, but only to a certain extent.
On ‘Try Me” and “Wasted Times,” the emotion just kind of felt fabricated and unnecessary. The guy dated Gomez for only a few months, how broken can he be? Musically, both tracks felt very empty and devoid of passion.
In all honesty, Abel would have been better of working with French techno-artist Gesaffelstein for the entire record. The two songs that they worked on together actually seemed genuine and compelling. The off-kiltered mixing on “I Was Never There” sounded like an updated version of something from House of Balloons. The French producer seems to understand Abel’s strengths.
Even “Hurt You” sounded a lot more intoxicating and pleasing. Gesaffelstein does a lot with a little, and while the lyrics and chorus are repetitive, at least it didn’t bore me to death.
Sadly, Tesfaye reverts back to nothingness on “Privilege,” the final track. The Weeknd is known for his enduring finales (a la “I Feel it Coming), but this was not one of them. The way the instrumentation is mixed makes the final minute of the track very awkward and empty.
The tone and mood stayed very consistent throughout the EP, and I applaud Tesfaye for never abandoning his goal for this project. Nonetheless, he fails at capturing excitement and enthusiasm this time around. Ironically, My Dear Melancholy, is probably his least ambitious record to date. He brings a hint of nostalgia, but at the cost of six songs that felt like simple throwaways. Considering it took almost year and a half for this, I’m not that impressed.