My Dear Melancholy (EP), by The Weeknd
Is it an advantage or a disadvantage to know something about the personal life of the people involved with making music? As someone who is moderately fond of the artist, especially his more recent work, I happen to know that this EP, a stopgap of sorts between two immensely popular eras, was written in the aftermath of a break-up between the artist and Selena Gomez, a pop star in her own right and one who often finds herself to be the subject of the music of other people, especially her exes. To what extent does that color one’s interpretation of the material? By and large I would prefer to take the songs as is and then project whatever meaning I have, but knowing something of the personal life and details involved does color what I find to be in these songs, for better or worse, and it is worthwhile to acknowledge such a thing as a reviewer.
The album begins with the popular and moody “Call Out My Name,” where the artist opines about desiring for his estranged partner to call out his name still for all the time of loyal love that he had showed to her. “Try Me” is an invitation to someone who has been previously unavailable to try him out as a partner, with a bit of a seductive dance-pop production. “Wasted Time” shows the singer discussing the wasted time he spent with someone else while wanting someone else for himself only over a nervous and jittery beat. “I Was Never There,” one of two tracks with Gesaffelstein, continues the general approach of a downbeat and well-produced song about regret over the problems of the past, with the feeling that it doesn’t matter. “Hurt You,” the second co-credited track, has a bit of ambivalence as the artist goes into considerable detail about his longings for her while stating that he doesn’t want to hurt her, apparently unaware of how the two are somewhat contradictory sentiments. “Privilege” is another downbeat song that deals with the breakup and the suffering of his former partner and his own attempts to come to grips with it by sleeping with someone else and getting back into problem drinking and pill use. The EP then ends with an a capella rendition of the only hit of the collection, providing a melancholy and appropriately bookended collection of sad songs.
It may be becoming a bit of a recent trend in the material I review, but this EP manages to be excellent despite the fact that it does not portray either the singer or his ex in a flattering fashion. Celebrities are not generally admirable people, or people whose views matter or whose lifestyles are worth emulating, and this album is a worthwhile exploration into why this is the case. Abel is a wealthy and talented artist, but this album shows him brokenhearted over the breakup with Selena Gomez, drinking and engaging in sex he knows to be meaningless and taking pills to cope with the loneliness and reflecting upon the gloomy fact that he almost donated a kidney to save the life of someone who couldn’t commit to him, even if he desperately wants to keep having passionate sex with her. This album is honest, but if that honesty is admirable, it is also rather disturbing to think of how it is that celebrities live and the material from which they draw the inspiration for their work.