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The Weeknd has returned with a surprise new album, My Dear Melancholy. The album comes 18 months after the Grammy-winning Starboy, but the new material is nothing like its predecessor.
Dropped last Thursday, The Weeknd seems to be taking a step back to his darker roots that first started his career as MDM focuses on his classic hazy aesthetic and sweeping vocals. With only six tracks, the new album can seem like a weird offering from the R&B superstar, but there’s a lot more to it upon listening.
Here’s everything we learned from My Dear Melancholy.
Compared to the 18-track Starboy, My Dear Melancholy comes in at six songs, making it not quite an EP and not really an LP. MDM is listed as an EP on Spotify, the official Republic Records press release called it a “project,” but The Weeknd’s newsletter referred to it as an album.
With only a handful of songs, MDM is left in an awkward state that doesn’t fit conventional music industry standards. But some argue that LPs are dying as more artists choose to release EPs and singles in frequent intervals rather than full albums every couple years.
Although he never explicitly says her name, there has been much speculation that “Call Out My Name” is about The Weeknd’s relationship with Selena Gomez. No other song on MDM is more explicit about his regrets over Gomez with lyrics like “We found each other / I helped you out of a broken place / You gave me comfort / But falling for you was my mistake.”
The song even hints that Abel was contemplating donating a kidney to Gomez who underwent a transplant last summer as a result of complications from lupus: “I said I didn’t feel nothing, baby, but I lied / I almost cut a piece of myself for your life.”
If My Dear Melancholy proves anything, it’s that The Weeknd isn’t here for relationships.
Avid fans of The Weeknd have been anxiously waiting for the singer to return to his mixtape roots. Stepping away from the upbeat, pop sound of 2016’s Starboy, Abel has seemed to transition back to his sombre persona of 2011’s House of Balloons. The tracks of My Dear Melancholy are similar to the much darker, downtempo R&B that first started his career with hazy synths, sweeping reverbed vocal lines and in-your-face lyrics that are almost too honest.
The album title is enough of a give away, but to no surprise The Weeknd is still sad. As detailed by Pitchfork, “My Dear Melancholy [is] a love letter to The Weeknd’s only loyal partner: his infinite sadness.” MDM certainly delivers the melancholy as a guilty Abel croons on about the women he’s hurt. But just because he recognises the hurt he may have caused, doesn’t mean the singer-songwriter has grown emotionally. His lyrics are still riddled with the essence of a man who sends “u up?” texts at 2 a.m.
French techno artist Gesaffelstein, who was one of Yeezus’ many producers, is the only contributor on My Dear Melancholy to land a formal feature. Having produced Kanye West’s “Black Skinhead” and “Send It Up,” Gesaffelstein provides a bit of colour to MDM with bright synths that add depth to Abel’s lustrous vocals.