It has been more than two months since I wrote an album review. And here I am about to make one for the latest EP released by The Weeknd. It contains six songs and lasts for approximately 20 minutes! The Weeknd knows our frustrations with the Martin Scorsese-length albums that today’s artists have been churning out. Today, I don’t have an excuse to not listen. But I digress. Here it goes.
The timing of the release came as a surprise. But the subject matter wasn’t. Fresh off a break up with Selena Gomez, here is The Weeknd coming to terms with its aftermath. In one go, the material went from bitterness, to bargaining, to rebound, to depression, to numbness, and back to sadness again. That’s something we can definitely relate to. We are The Weeknd without all the fame and talent. Okay, so we are NOT The Weeknd because fame and talent does separate him from the rest of us. In it, we also have Abel expressing not just his sexuality but also his fragility that we often do not see.
There is a cloud of darkness and heartache surrounding the album. I’d say the album is refreshingly gloomy. None of it relies on the mainstream and upbeat sound we have been accustomed to with his last two releases. You will not find a “Can’t Feel My Face” or “I Feel It Coming” on the record. Even the engineering of “Starboy” cannot be located anywhere. That’s neither good nor bad. At the end of the day, the output still cuts through and draws its listener to a haunting and hypnotised place.
If you go to the credits, you’d find half of Daft Punk, Skrillex, and French DJ Gesaffelstein among the contributors. I have not heard of the latter except for the fact that he’s apparently worked with Kanye West and Lana del Rey. He’s the only one to be featured as an artist in any track (two actually), so I guess his input must be significant in the record’s formation.
But what I’d like to emphasise is the amount of EDM collaborators present in the album did nothing to convert its song into the club bangers I’d generally associate with the genre. In this battle of EDM vs The Weeknd, it seems like Abel prevailed. And that is a feat, considering how even the biggest artists fold when placed side by side a top notch DJ. You can hear how altered Coldplay or Taylor Swift’s recent sound has become. And I’m not here to pass any judgment except to say my observations. For now, at least.
It’s more interesting to do a track by track deepdive because we watched their relationship unfold before our eyes. It’s easy to forget that celebrities are human beings as well who are subject to great pain. I guess, love is the great equaliser. But back to the album –
Bella Hadid and Selena Gomez did significant damage. When I read the lyrics and hear him sing through it, say I was Never There, you almost want to comfort him and say life will find a way to get things back in order. He’s going on an unhealthy downward spiral that makes you believe he’ll take his life one day. Here’s to hoping it’s nothing but artistic expression. Yes, you can vent out your anger towards Selena Gomez. But hopefully it doesn’t manifest in an addiction that Privilege seems to hint at.
As expected, he throws shade at Selena. In Wasted Times, he concludes that she is only half the woman Bella Hadid was. And he has no reservation hiding his affection and sexual desire for the latter. Not only does he tell her “I hope you know this dick is still an option”, but that “You were equestrian, so ride it like a champion.” I have my own opinions as to whether discussing exes and objectifying prospects are acceptable. But the general public going mute on it, while female superstars get scrutinised for exhibiting the same, is definitely double standards in play.
After listening to Call Out My Name, it might be fair to conclude that Selena Gomez deserves some flack for going out on a date with Justin Bieber the following day after her breakup with The Weeknd. Here is a man who professes “I almost cut a piece of myself for your life”. Not only did he work out the schedule of his tour around her operation. But he was willing to sacrifice an organ for her! Putting her actions into context, The Weeknd did come out of Bella Hadid’s apartment the same day Selena rekindled her romance with Justin Bieber. And in The Weeknd’s music, he continually proclaims his detachment from emotions. I guess he realises how much of a lip service that really is.
He exhibits confusing behaviour. We all do. You begin to wonder how much of that love for Selena is left. Try Me is The Weeknd trying to renegotiate the terms of their breakup. It’s almost like he’s willing to be on the losing end, if only to get some parts of her, than none of her. Don’t we all have that phase in a falling out? Except The Weeknd has a plethora of options we might not have.
Now, is he really head over heels for Bella Hadid? Hurt You seems to indicate they have different perspectives about where the reconnection is going. And The Weeknd is afraid he might end up hurting her as he wants nothing but a physical relationship. To be more explicit about it, his exact words were “Girl, I’ll come to put myself between your legs. Not between your heart”.
Overall, the album’s back story sparked my interest. But it’s the album’s cohesiveness and honesty that won me over. Here is an artist whose trajectory was beginning to be put into question. And with 20 minutes of new music, he managed to silence his doubters and reminded them he is here to stay.
Album Playlist Link: