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DEFCON 1 Reviews Musical Special: The Weeknd’s ‘My Dear Melancholy,’

'My Dear Melancholy,' album cover

XO/Republic Records

'My Dear Melancholy,' album cover

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So The Weeknd dropped an EP. If I’m being entirely honest, I’m not really a Weeknd fan. To me, he got famous by being a glorified Michael Jackson impersonator and then continued his career by morphing into an antagonistic pop star. I do, however, like quite a few of his songs and features, including “Often,” “Die For You,” and his feature on Travis Scott’s Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight single, “wonderful.” My Dear Melancholy,, after two listens, wasn’t a bad EP. The songs were sung and produced very well as they always are. The issue was, however, The Weeknd’s attempts to reminiscently recapture his past glories came off as repetitive, not symbolic.

But, as always, let’s start with the good stuff.

Beauty Behind the Madness

My favorite part about this EP was how sonically pleasing it was. The production value was a perfect representation of how much it costed. This project featured production and mixing from artists ranging from Mike Will Made-It to Daft Punk, making it a beautiful display of controlled chaos. The vocal levels and ethereal sounds were flawless throughout the entire EP, making it easy to listen to from an instrumental standpoint. If nothing else, My Dear Melancholy, is a testament to musical masterpiece when appealing to the ears.

Willing and Abel

The Weeknd can sing. We have long established that, and this EP certainly reinforces this fact. Abel Tesfaye excels vocally throughout the project, almost engulfing listeners in an ambient and, well, ‘melancholy’ sound full of reverb and minor melody. The project is painfully reminiscent (though not necessarily effectively) and certainly sounds like a whirlwind of memories, and that is much credited to The Weeknd, who is an expert at making his voice create the sounds that he wants.

Wasted Times

The Weeknd is more vocally dominant on “Wasted Times” than on any other track on My Dear Melancholy,. True, it may not be his most harmonic or sonically pleasing song, but it has strong vocals, a beautiful instrumental, and a straightforward message. “Wasted Times” is the most unique song on the entire EP, and it not only sounds fantastic, but it conveys an emotion despite its fusion soul/hip-hop/reggae instrumentation. The slow-downs throughout the song intertwine perfectly, allowing The Weeknd to shine vocally without the beat fighting his voice.

As I transition into the negative part of this review I have two important contextual things to say. First, I apologize for the shortness of this review in comparison to my others, but this project is short and, honestly, not particularly eventful or charming. It shined where it shined and failed where it failed. Secondly, My Dear Melancholy, wasn’t a bad EP by any means. It was actually a very enjoyable listen, but it is so lacking in subject matter and uniqueness when compared to The Weeknd’s other works that it almost does not surface as a competitor against his other projects.

Hurt You

The second to last song on My Dear Melancholy, is one that I really wish I could love; the instrumentation is excellent, Tesfaye’s vocals are exemplary and I understand and can relate to the emotions he is conveying. Still, his attempt at reminiscence fails and appears as repetition instead. The initial cadence is (I assume intentionally) identical to the one he uses on his song “Pray For Me” from the Black Panther soundtrack. That release was a hit, but it was so recent that it made me cringe upon realizing that he thought himself legendary enough to do a callback this soon.

Con-fusion

The part that makes the least sense about The Weeknd’s EP is the overall plot/direction. He is a very lyrical artist who has continuously made projects that highlight his anxiety and the issues he faces throughout his life. My Dear Melancholy, doesn’t excel in this category. The Weeknd sings with power and dominance with delivery that makes him sound like he’s made up his mind. He sings as if making it clear to whatever girl(s) he’s singing to that he knows his way around this new life. Nonetheless, the actual subject matter is insecure and uncertain, which takes away from the beautiful ambiance of the album by having contradicting messages.

The Weak-End

When I listened to My Dear Melancholy, I did it essentially with my eyes closed and headphones on to get the fullest experience with both the melody and lyrics. The full EP came off as a story, which, despite being redundant at times, I actually enjoyed. Still, the most disappointing part of the project was the last song. “Privilege” is boring, simply put. Now, I don’t hate the song, but it left me like “umm…okay” as a listener and not in a good way. The entire album was wrapped in indecision and internal turmoil as The Weeknd couldn’t decide how to handle his emotions. This message was completely contradicted just as it began to make sense, as Tesfaye makes bold claims of finality and conclusion, almost contemptuous at his situation. He essentially solved his problem with drugs, and I do like the ‘antihero’ aspect where he’s decided to solve his issues the wrong way, but this just didn’t make sense. “Privilege” is too lyrically short and anticlimactic to be a satisfying conclusion to such a sonically ambient EP. I’m not trying to tell him how to express his art, but if he had ended the project with Wasted Times or even I Was Never There, he could have given a more meaningful sense of finality without losing any of the suspense that he is obviously trying to emphasize (it’s pretty apparent that this means a full-length album is coming soon).

The Verdict

My first reaction after listening to My Dear Melancholy, was that I wasn’t blown away. The album was so beautiful in certain parts that I often considered raising the score, but the subject matter and Tesfaye’s approach ultimately landed it where it is. The EP was absolutely gorgeous from a sound perspective. I’ve heard very few projects from any other artists with such appropriate but unexpected production value, and that’s truly where this EP shines. My Dear Melancholy, did make me excited for whatever The Weeknd has coming next, so that was a success on his part, but this felt like a crude cliffhanger that is more confusing than climactic. So there may be greater things for the Starboy on the horizon, but for now, I can’t say I’m prepared to declare this project a ‘W’.

Okay

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