The Lowdown: For an artist typically defined by excess, The Weeknd’s new 22-minute EP is a careful exercise in restraint and a surprising, conscious step in a new direction. Compared to the chart-topping singles of his last two albums, My Dear Melancholy, takes a step back towards his beginnings by featuring a tightly wound six songs of heartbreak and anger.
The Good: One of The Weeknd’s — or rather, Abel Tesfaye’s — primary facets is the murky aesthetic that defines everything he does, and the level of consistency on display is impressive. Tesfaye fully owns his “heartbroken asshole” persona with lyrics deeply petty and personal, and the EP shines when Tesfaye actually conveys that hurt rather than someone playing at it. While it’s familiar, its short running length helps the EP to be Tesfaye’s most focused album since House of Balloons.
The Bad: The consuming sameness of the release is ultimately a crutch for Tesfaye. His style can be so overpowering that it mutes contributions from distinct collaborators such as Nicolas Jaar and Gesaffelstein. The songs here may recall the swirling haze and petulant bitterness of his initial mixtapes, but they do so in a sanitized manner, as Tesfaye appears distant. Everything about it, such as the short track length, the unassuming way it was announced as almost a pre-festival season toss-off, and the fact that nothing on here sounds close to a hit single, screams noncommittal.
The Verdict: If the EP was meant to be a way to revisit “mixtape Abel”, it feels thin, lacking the slippery tension that made those tapes so drawing in the first place. My Dear Melancholy, has cohesion, but it’s a listless, murky sound that never unhinges the way you want it to. Had he pushed a little further, it could have made for something more substantial, rather than walking up to the cusp and then backing down.
Essential Tracks: “Wasted Times”, “Call Our My Name”