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Album Review | From madness to ‘Melancholy’
The Weekend returns to his moody, thoughtful roots in surprise EP
After almost two years since the release of The Weeknd’s third studio album “Starboy,” Abel Tesfaye revives his dark musical style in “My Dear Melancholy,” (and no that’s not a typo, the official title includes a comma to mimic the beginning of a letter). The six-track EP (extended play) features 22 minutes of music that address his own sadness and crumbling relationships.
The EP was released on March 30 after being heavily teased by The Weeknd. The R&B artist suggested that he was in the concluding stages of completing a project after sharing multiple mute videos on Instagram of a recording studio. The videos were posted with the caption, “mastering.” On March 28, he also posted a screenshot to Twitter of a text message to Creative Director La Mar Taylor.
“Should we drop Friday? I’m indifferent to be honest,” the text message read.
What followed two days after was the release of a skin-and-bones EP that followed a distinctly different trajectory than the two albums that preceded it. Although this mini-album doesn’t break any new ground as The Weeknd’s music has done in the past, the subdued nature of “My Dear Melancholy,” doesn’t undercut from the concise and focused nature of the R&B production.
The opening track, “Call Out My Name,” defines the emotional vulnerability found throughout the EP. “My Dear Melancholy,” features melodramatic lyrics such as, “I almost cut a piece of myself for your life/guess I was just another pit stop ‘til you made up your mind.”
Lyrically, the EP has some thoughtful lines but is profoundly supported by The Weeknd’s signature non-lyrical crooning.
The track “Try Me” has the light notes of trap from co-producer Mill Will Made-It. This continues with “Wasted Times” being the outlier of the six songs, featuring indie-techno beats. The next two songs both hold synthetic influence from French techno artist Gesaffelstein on “I Was Never There” and “Hurt You.” The Weeknd closes the EP with the song “Privilege,” which truly resonates with the artist’s older fans with it’s slow and dark musical tones.
Overall, The EP is a bitter mixture of confessionals, remorse and reflection that has been met with positive reception. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. This is The Weeknd’s third consecutive No. 1 on this chart. Because of the hype, critics have heavily weighed in on the EP.
“‘My Dear Melancholy,’ surprisingly provides the clearest, most engaging example yet of The Weeknd’s angst,” Rolling Stone’s Tirhakah Love wrote for the publication. “It’s the sound of a man kneeling at love’s alter still in such of an elusive healing.”
After the release of “My Dear Melancholy,” a behind-the-scenes video was posted to The Weeknd’s Youtube channel on April 9 titled “He Was Never There, Docupoem.” The mini documentary details the recording process behind the song “I Was Never There.” The Joachim Johnson-directed video also features audio clips from interviews with those who took part in the production.
The music video for “Call Out My Name” was also released on April 12. The majority of the video is The Weeknd walking alone down a dimly lit street singing along to the first track of his EP.
One thing that “My Dear Melancholy,” proves is that there’s no better inspiration for music than having your heart broken. The EP has presumed to have been based on The Weeknd’s past relationships with model Bella Hadid and music artist Selena Gomez. His decision to narrate his real-life experiences through his lyrics has been met with positivity from fans, who believe that the choice was courageous.
On the other hand, a recently published article by Marie Claire online has called out the double standard of the reception received by both The Weeknd and Taylor Swift. According to the article, Swift is infamously known for using her celebrity relationships as inspiration for her lyrics. This has earned devotion from her fan base but also backlash from critics who believe Swift “plays the victim” with her music.
“Yet men in the music industry are getting praised for doing -literally- the exact same thing,” Marie Claire’s Emma Henderson wrote. “Because he [The Weeknd] is a man, he has every right to tell his side of the story. Women who lay their emotions bare, on the other hand, are hysterical and crazy.”
Whether The Weeknd’s intention was to call out his ex’s or to have artistic freedom with his lyrics, the emotional EP is still successful among both critics and fans. “My Dear Melancholy,” shows that The Weeknd is not afraid to put his feelings on display.