With a hint of vulnerability, the Weeknd is back. Cian Montague reviews latest album My Dear Melancholy,.
The Weeknd’s new release came out of nowhere, and at six tracks – a no man’s land between EP and LP – it’s hard to know what this project is exactly. Before we even begin, marks would have to be taken off for its title, My Dear Melancholy,. It’s aggressively on the nose, and the leftover comma begs for attention: a comma, a hesitation between continuing a sentence and ending it. What reason could Abel have for leaving that there?
Moving on to the music, what do we have here? For one thing, the project is mercifully concise; there’s none of the bloat of Starboy here. It can’t be overstated how important this streamlining is for this collection; it means that the listener doesn’t have to wade through the filler to find Abel’s more interesting moments.
Stylistically, Melancholy is a return to the dark, down-tempo R&B with which The Weeknd first made his name. Nevertheless, it’s a far cry from his anonymous mixtape heyday: the beats here are shiny, state-of-the-art electronic works from household names like Mike WiLL Made-It, Skrillex, and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo of Daft Punk.
Lyrically, this project is an interesting departure from past Weeknd outings, as we’re offered a rare glimpse of a more vulnerable Abel. ‘Call Out My Name’ is potentially the first time we’ve heard him singing about a girl he desires who doesn’t want him. There’s still plenty of drink, drugs, and “mindless sex,” but Melancholy, paints a picture of Abel hurt, reeling (possibly from his breakup with Selena Gomez, if that interests you). There’s a pretty good case for “I don’t wanna wake up/If you ain’t laying next to me” from ‘Wasted Times’ as the most tender lyric Abel has ever put on wax.
Unfortunately, it’s incongruous with him trotting out the same tired material about how “these girls only want you when you’re winning,” that he’s been doing for years, on the very same track. Indeed, this is common: quite often Abel’s sympathetic moments are punctuated with crass selfishness, and this certainly has an undermining effect. The sensitive moments of the album perhaps highlight further his tendency towards crudeness, rather than giving him the benefit of tender thoughtfulness which the floating comma may be asking for.
In a nutshell: His lyrics aren’t at their sharpest, and he still says plenty of things you wish he wouldn’t, but My Dear Melancholy brings us closer to living for the The Weeknd than before.