My Dear Melancholy,
Heartbreak and high profile relationships soundtracks The Weeknd’s deepest and most relatable music to date as he battles the six stages of grief.
We now find ourselves in a culture in which streaming dominates how the majority of people choose to listen to music. This has led to albums overstuffed with vapid songs and filler that would usually find itself locked away for future repackages and B-sides. You don’t need to look much further than Migos recent album ‘Culture II’, to see what sort of affect quantity over quality has on a finished project.
Some publications were quick to brandish The Weeknd's (Abel Tesfaye) last release ‘Starboy’ with the same brush stroke. Such claims however, cannot be thrown at Tesfaye’s latest release ‘My Dear Melancholy,’ which comes in at a brisk 6 track, 22 minute length. It provides enough time to paddle in his deep pool of emotional turmoil without finding yourself drowning, struggling to breathe.
The EP feels very much like a singular project, each song blends into the other, that’s not to say they’re not distinctive of themselves but the records stellar production just flows so effortlessly you’ll find yourself listening through without a single pause, finding yourself latching on to Tesfaye’s dark journey of grief.
Reminiscent of early, darker material such as the Trilogy collection. ‘Melancholy’ explores The Weeknd’s feelings as he deals with the breakdown of not one but two relationships (Bella Hadid & Selena Gomez), for Tesfaye though this time it’s different, due to the high profile nature of the romances and how he’s been thrown into the spotlight these past few years, we can suddenly unravel the lyrics and references in minute detail, making the tracks his most heartbreakingly relatable and emotional to date.
Throughout the EP Tesfaye encounters each of the six stages of grief, with each song representing a different part of the process, the initial shock is apparent in opener ‘Call Out My Name’ as he pleads “I want you to stay, even though you don’t want me”, telling her “why can’t you wait till I’ve fallen out of love” and going as far as to remind her “I nearly cut a piece of myself, for your life”. It’s the most chart friendly song on the EP, sounding very familiar to earlier hit ‘Earned It’ but despite it’s heavy lyrics it ultimately comes across as lacklustre compared to the strength of material to come. More of a generic pop song than groundbreaking.
‘Try Me’ is Tesfaye’s second stage, denial, as he croons over a much smoother and upbeat sonic palette. Telling presumably Selena that she shouldn’t mess with him and reminding her it was in fact she, who first pursued and tempted him into bed with her. Sonically the beats and production are remarkable, gradually building whilst The Weeknd’s signature falsetto swerves and sways in-between the resulting spaces.
The third stage of grief is that of anger, Tesfaye doesn’t need to scream or shout on ‘Wasted Times’ it’s his cutting lyrics that highlight the displeasure left in his heart as he both laments the time he wasted with Gomez whilst reaching out to ex Hadid, at times his voice is almost indiscernible when the heavy distortion kicks in midway, turning his solemn reflections into a dance floor, drug induced smash. You don’t need to see the EP’s production credits to tell this was the track produced by Skrillex.
The only ‘featured’ artist however is French Techno DJ and Producer Gesaffelstein who helps create the two most experimental tracks on the record, starting with ‘I Was Never There’ which is both audibly and lyrically harrowing, first beginning with sirens before Tesfaye contemplates his depression and thoughts of suicide “what makes a grown man want to cry?, what makes him want to take his life?.” This loops right the song back into context with the six stages of grief, this is the bargaining stage in which Tesfaye is saying he’s either with the mystery woman or dead. Gesaffelstein’s production gives the song an eerie feel full of suspense very much befitting the dark lyrics,
‘Hurt You’ is both a switch in terms of lyrical content and sonic delivery. Tesfaye swaps roles, this time grieving over the pain he’s caused his ex, coming to the realisation that relationships cause him nothing but grief and pain, there lies his true enemy. This is also Gesaffelstein's other contribution, it’s a significant improvement on the previous track, with the DJ’s beats creating an almost second voice in tandem with Abel’s, they feed off each other before he spends the second half of the track, stretching and echoing Tesfaye’s voice into an ethereal wail, you can literally feel his cries of pain.
The album suitably peaks with it’s finale ‘Privilege’ and like the pills he spends the track singing about, this track is unapologetically addictive. in just under three minutes The Weeknd manages to craft what may possibly be his best song to date. perhaps a bold statement but I find it harder to name a single song of Tesfaye’s that manages to combine all aspects of his music so eloquently, it mixes a much more intelligent and subtle take on his drug filled lyrics that’ve become a career staple with stunning production containing a vast amount of detail from the light vinyl styled crack that starts and lightly follows the song to the way his beautiful falsetto breaks down and deteriorates whenever he sings about taking pills to remove his sadness, as if it’s also unwittingly chipping away other parts of his psyche.
The final track also marked the last stage of grief, acceptance with Tesfaye coming to terms with the end of the relationship “We’ve said our last goodbyes, let’s try and end it with a smile” a fitting closure to not just his grief but the EP as a whole. There are still rumors going around that this is only the beginning of a new trilogy of content to be released this year, however, this collection isn’t just capable of standing out on its own, it’s also some of The Weeknd’s best material to date.