My Rating: 5/10
“Should we drop on Friday, I’m indifferent to be honest, ” teases Abel on Instagram before the release of his latest project. Indifference seems to be an unusual attitude when dropping new art, but that’s what the Weeknd is, and is on this album – indifferent, to anything other than himself – meaning unconcerned and careless with anything other than his endless desires for sexual gratification and romance once again. This EP, while different from Starboy, is just as solipsistic (meaning being extremely preoccupied with ones own feelings) and personal as all his previous works. While its not a bad thing to prioritize yourself as I learnt in leadership class once (priorities of life: 1.SELF 2.all that other crap), it certainly gets old at one point. Nonetheless, I tried to review this new Weeknd art as fair as possible, but it’s pretty lifeless and unoriginal.
The opening track “Call Out My Name,” was boring, albeit setting that melancholic tone right away with Abel’s sorrowful vocals “Call out my naaame.” A couple of lines here I did actually like, like “I cut a piece of myself for your life, guess I was just another pit stop,” but it was a terrible song. The second track “Try Me,” was just uninteresting for me with the obnoxious “Can you try me?” and “You can notify me,” lines in the chorus. He expresses his no ill-will to try to break up Selena Gomez’s and Justin’s relationship, but he does say that he is at her disposal in case she wants him again. The queasy instrumental with reverberating synths and echoes was quite good I thought but not overly impressive. “Wasted Times,” got even worst with a title that has little prominence to the actual lyrics of the song. I thought we were going to get some anecdotes or memories of these times that are now wasted because he’s broken up with his lover, but instead we get Abel’s regular cheesy and desperate lines like “I hope you know this dick is still an option,” and “This sex will get you high without no other substance.” “I Was Never There,” has some hype instrumentation that I quite liked. While I enjoyed the first verse in which he says “What makes a grown man wanna cry?…And mindless sex is how he feels, ooh, he feels,” the rest of the song just feels like a sad instrumental with his negligible, blurred voice. The title again, I don’t know why, has little significance to the lyrics, with not him talking about not being an adequate lover or “not being there,” but rather just him brooding incessantly and boringly for the most part: “When it’s time, when it’s time, when it’s time, It won’t matter (it don’t matter).”
Contrary to most music reviewers that weren’t fans of this project (Shawn Cee, Anthony Fantano etc.), “Hurt You,” was the most meaningful track for me. The song essentially confesses Abel’s superior lustful desires over his desire of actual romance and love. While Youtuber Fantano was disgusted by Abel’s line: “Girl, I’ll come to put myself between your legs, Not between your heart,” I found his brutal honesty amusing. While he’s longing for his lover to return to him, he contradicts that supposed love as just mundane lust. By expressing those negative and unhealthy feelings his exemplifies the often overpowering greed of lust that man can be caught up in – which is also why you know…strip clubs and prostitution are a booming business alongside divorce papers in today’s world. The last track “Privilege,” again has more substance than the first half of the EP. He essentially just talks about returning to his destructive habits of drugs and alcohol to numb the loss of love and romance in his life. The lines where he alludes to the matrix and his red OxyContin pills that he uses to numb his sorrows: “And I’ma fuck the pain away, and I know I’ll be okay, but I’ma drink the pain away, I’ll be back to my old ways, And I got two red pills to take the blues away, oh,” were some of the most moving in the entire six tracks. I also like how bit-sized and short this song is unlike the rest of the bloated tracks – he’s concise, straight to the point and powerfully wraps up his melancholic art with his return to his nihilistic penchants of taking drugs and alcohol.
While I disliked all the tracks from this EP, with the exception of the last two, the production is satisfactory with spacey, dismal and kind of aquatically blurry and smooth instrumentals all setting the melancholic and desolate motif of the album. Bringing the gothic electro master Gesaffelstein, proved to be worthwhile with him producing some nice atmospheric and moody tunes on “I was never there,” and “Hurt You.” Thematically, I have no big complaints either – he gives us a an epitomic heartbroken and depressed man, his exact intent. Concrete story of his time with his ex-lovers, and how and why they broke up was something extremely deficient in the project. Storytelling and giving some kind of anecdotes or allegories in his songs would’ve made him feel less like just a whiny and melodramatic baby.
Even if you are an absolute Weeknd fan, and disagreed with all my main critiques, my main point with this review is that how is this EP novel or distinct in any way of what Abel’s done in the past? I’ve never loved his early mixtapes and 2 platinum albums – even Starboy was kind of underwhelming for me after a brief listen, but how is this any more different or refreshing? While the events in his life that he’s bitching about are obviously never talked before – his break up with Selena Gomez and Bella Hadid, his sounds and sentiments just feel like leftovers from any of his previous albums like Kiss Land or Beauty behind the Madness. And part of that lack of novelty – both musically and conceptually, seems to stem from what the guy is – heavily solipsistic. He doesn’t care about anything else in the world other than wanting love, wanting the most satisfying sex (more than love actually), and desiring to have a good time. And if he doesn’t get all that, he does exactly what he says he does on “Privilege,”- numb the pain with substance and beat himself up over it. And while “Melancholy,” and heartbreak, the uniform and consistent themes of the EP, are part of human nature obviously and something we all experience, you can’t spend you entire discography crying about it. We aren’t always hungry for sex, love and hedonism that the Weeknd seems to be portraying himself with. And that’s why this EP is just 6 tracks of whiny monotony and hopeless lifelessness. For his next project which seems to be on the horizon this year after leaving a comma after the title of the album, I hope the Weeknd can try to conceptually transcend all this lovey-dovey stuff and start to at least experiment with different sounds, concepts and song ideas.
Without any powerful storytelling, this project is kind of like a lawyer still fighting with extreme vigor even though he knows he lost the case, or like foolishly looking for one extra chance whilst standing in the driveway of your ex-girlfriend’s place while she’s wooing her new lover – there’s no point in it. He’s heartbroken and emotionally paralyzed, I get it, but its time to move on, because the r&b community is getting bored with the same themes rinsed and repeated from the last few projects. While having a consistent theme and a homogeneous “melancholic” vibe, this project severely lacks in novelty and musical conviction. Just like Abel’s indifference towards the date of releasing this project, I’m truly indifferent with this crappy and uninventive EP. Its terrible and boring: 5/10.