After solidifying his success with the 2016 Daft Punk-produced album, “Starboy,” The Weeknd returned to his musical roots with his March 30 EP “My Dear Melancholy,” characterized by moody beats and pained crooning.
“My Dear Melancholy” cuts through the fluff of The Weeknd’s seemingly cool disinterest to reveal the beating his heart has taken from exes Selena Gomez and Bella Hadid, though neither one is mentioned by name.
Each song on the EP packs punches both lyrically and acoustically. The electro-synth beats are softer than those of “Starboy,” but they convey more turmoil and darkness with their eerie, foreign sounds.
Structurally, “My Dear Melancholy,” shows The Weeknd’s emotional journey as he sings through the initial pain of leaving Gomez and his romance with Hadid as well as the brokenheartedness and recovery that followed.
The opening track and hit of the EP, “Call Out My Name,” focuses on his relationship with Gomez as he brokenheartedly regrets “putting her on top” and introduces the recurring motif of “wasting time” with her as she went back and forth with ex-boyfriend Justin Bieber.
The most controversial line, “I almost cut a piece of myself for your life,” seems to refer to The Weeknd’s willingness to donate one of his kidneys to Gomez because of her worsening lupus nephritis, an inflammatory disease. He sings softly throughout the song, and the muted bursts of piano riffs beat unstably, reflecting how he is still stuck in the middle space of both caring for Gomez and wishing he no longer loved her.
The next song, “Try Me,” opens with a similarly dark synth twinkle, with The Weeknd’s signature indecipherable croon lamenting words he has not yet sung. The lyrics of the song could refer to either girlfriend, as he repeats “try me, once you put your pride aside.” The only hint that this track is for Gomez is that he sings about kissing her scars, which could mean either figurative scars or literal scars that Gomez had from surgery.
The EP then switches from missing Gomez to reminiscing about Hadid in “Wasted Times,” in which The Weeknd croons that Gomez “wasn’t even half of you.” The chorus is peppered with questions as he wonders who Hadid “gives her love to now?” as a soft percussion echoes in the background. There is a substantial reference to Hadid when he sings that she has “been with [him] from the beginning” and she was “equestrian so ride it like a champion.”
Hadid dated The Weeknd for 18 months as he was rising into fame and was an acclaimed equestrian before her modelling career. Haunting background voices mirror The Weeknd’s audible pain, ending the song on a melancholy note.
On the next two tracks, “I Was Never There” and “Hurt You,” The Weeknd collaborated with Gesaffelstein, a French producer known for gothic synth concoctions and his collaborations with established artists like Lana del Rey and Kanye West.
In “I Was Never There,” The Weeknd falls into the pit of thinking that “it won’t matter” and that relationships only “poison him.” The high-pitched, nasal siren that sounds at the beginning of the song amplifies a sensation of high anxiety and numbness as The Weeknd grapples with the dark side of love. He never directly answers his question, “what makes [a man] want to take his life?” Rather, he descends further into his mind and begins to think all the pain he endured is worthless.
The beat picks up on “Hurt You,” as The Weeknd pulls himself out of despair and writes off his relationship with Gomez. The Weeknd explicitly draws the line between coming back to Gomez for sex and loving her, which is a “waste of time” for her to ever expect again. Rather than singing about him wasting his time, as he had done in “Call Out My Name” and “Wasted Times,” “Hurt You” features The Weeknd singing about wasting Gomez’s time.
The last song of the EP, “Privilege,” details The Weeknd finishing the split with “final goodbyes” and saying that he will no longer “ hold [her] through the night.” While not as concerning as the lyrics of “I Was Never There,” the bridge of the song is about him falling back into old ways of relying on sex and drugs to suppress emotional pain. The electronic yet gentle sounds soften the blow of his direct and brutally honest words on the subject of Gomez, which serve as closure for their relationship.
As a whole, “My Dear Melancholy” incorporates the dark, smoky sound that fans originally loved The Weeknd for with fresh anguish over two significant A-listers. The buzz surrounding the album, aside from the bitterness aimed at Gomez, centers on The Weeknd’s possibility of winning Hadid back. While the smoothness and sincerity of The Weeknd’s voice is enough to please his fans, given the pain expressed in “My Dear Melancholy,” it might take more than an EP to rekindle the sparks.