The pop superstar, Abel Tesfaye, under the universally-recognised pseudonym ‘The Weeknd’, releases an unsatisfying offering of hits in the form of the album My Dear, Melancholy, – leaving him at risk of revisiting the dusky days of Trilogy and commerciality of Starboy.
I have been somewhat of a “superfan” of The Weeknd since the release of the three mixtapes, better known as ‘Trilogy’, that bought a hazy yet fresh breath of air into the R&B scene back in 2012. The sounds that edged on the brink of consciousness, looming over the darkness of sex & drugs and more sex & drugs, made The Weeknd unparalleled in the industry. His anonymity, reluctance of fame and interviews, created this silhouetted character that was purely intriguing to so many. Unfortunately, his first attempt at breaking from this bleary mould, that despite being tremendously successful, would be dangerously confining, was met with an outstanding backlash of negativity, both commercially and critically – 2013’s Kiss Land was a flop. Then what seemed an entire dilution of the Weeknd brand, partnered with a promotional tie-in with the most successful erotic drama films of all time, Beauty Behind The Madness entered Tesfaye into the realm of pop-stardom, scoring him with a triple-platinum selling record for his 2015 LP. A year later, Starboy continued this trend, currently with a certified double-platinum in sales.
Now with My Dear, Melancholy, The Weeknd has arrived with a nod towards his sullener original outputs. The muffled echoes in the background of Try Me and synthesised vocals/moans on the latter stages of Wasted Times all point towards a vibe exercised in Echoes Of Silence – they could easily be loose-cuts that didn’t quite make the mixtape. Yet, as the record progresses, the formula of BBTM weaves its way back into the production with the aid of French producer Gesaffelstein. I Was Never There sits upon a whiny alarm that presents possibly one of the most experimental moments of the production, but tactlessly wilts out into a rather forgettable track. Hurt You follows suit with a lacklustre production, showcasing an almost identical beat to As You Are, with a brief hint at I Feel It Coming, reaching neither of the heights those tracks do. Privilege concludes the record, leaving an overall sour taste in my mouth. A lazy production with a beat that sounds like it was pieced together within 5 minutes for bulk and an unpleasing, wordless chorus that makes me yearn for something more.
It must be said that Call Out My Name is by far one of the best Weeknd tracks that have been released in recent years. An exercise in the beauty that made Tesfaye so adored – an excruciatingly drawn out beat, layered with impassioned vocals ranging from howling highs, croaky screams and sombre mumbles. For me, it reminds me of the Earned It/Hills era, with the added grit of his apparent heartache at the hands of Selena Gomez. As with any output from Tesfaye, the vocals are meticulously honed, creating pure delight for the neutral.
The question I keep asking is ‘Is there any real need for this record?’ – the execution and style are very much evolutionary, rather than revolutionary. The Weeknd seems to still be finding a balance of commercialism and originality that hasn’t been exhibited since the release of Trilogy. As a fan, I want to see him grow, not to revisit old stock.