Review: The melancholy of Abel Tesfaye

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Graphic by Lea Clarin

Having recovered from his inability to feel his face when he’s with us, The Weeknd is back to grace the world with his newest 22-minute EP, My Dear Melancholy,. The comma is intentional, as if it was the start to a letter addressing Abel Tesfaye’s inner melancholy, which we can only assume is due to his recent breakup with Selena Gomez. A downcast way to start an album, this sad feel is carried out through the entire tracklist. A complete departure from the pop tones of “Starboy” and the afore-referenced “I Can’t Feel My Face,” My Dear Melancholy, is a step-back to The Weeknd’s roots, the dark-alt R&B sound which many would come to base their works. This is not the first time we’ve seen The Weeknd change his musical direction. and I’m positive it won’t be the last. This time we’re faced with a six-track composition of heavy bass and synthesizer tunes, coupled with some interesting electronic influence from Daft Punk’s Guy-Manuel De Homem-Cristo, French DJ Gesaffelstein, and Skrillex. Again, not the first time we’ve seen a collaboration with The Weeknd and various electronic artists and considering his last foray with Daft Punk in, “Starboy” was such a success, one could hardly blame him for adding a couple names to the list.

The teamwork again pays off on this EP indulging the creation of some relaxed but distinctly downtrodden and gritty beats that embody the album’s melancholic tone. Each song is unique, though they all lend themselves to a similar sound with certain instruments being used throughout. There is no progression with the album in terms of sound; This may have been an artistic choice in an attempt to embody the immobile feeling one has when in such a rut of sadness. This means that the first track has much of the same sound as the last. A complete listen of this album is hardly different from playing the songs hours apart and in my several playthroughs of the EP, I couldn’t pick a track that really stood out to me among the rest. This is not to say it’s stale — the album merely chooses a sound and sticks with it, meaning every song is just as good as the next. Regardless, this does mean any stand-out singles like, “Starboy” are absent and I’m curious as to which composition will be decided as the best by the Billboard 100.

I would say the greatest weakness of this album is the lyrics — for an emotional theme to be emphasized in the title, the lyrics end up taking an unexpected backseat for most of the EP. They’re present, but serve more as a backdrop to the instruments than a prominent feature. While many answers could be given as to why this is the case, ultimately I found myself wishing I could hear Abel a bit more to give his melancholy a personalized voice.

Overall, the album is a success. The Weeknd brings back some of the old tunes he’s known for while still providing a fresh new experience for listeners both fairweather and fan. My only word of advice for the artist is that perhaps he should have taken a note from Justin Bieber before getting involved with Selena. Of course, I can’t complain. If a busted relationship results in work like this, then there’s certainly hope for a brighter future for our friend The Weeknd.

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