Cheer Up, Abel! The morose music maestro making moves

(XO Records.)

The Weeknd has quietly been taking over pop music. Since his first U.S. tour in 2012, which included a performance at Coachella, the 28 year-old artist from Toronto has been crafting dark, rapturous R&B projects for a mainstream American – now global – audience, culminating in the recent release of “My Dear Melancholy,.”

The compact, six-track “album” finds the self-titled Starboy singing over beats from a constellation of supernova producers, including Grammy award-winning producer, and fellow Toronto native, Frank Dukes, as well as American EDM prodigy Skrillex.

“Call Out My Name” kicks off the EP on an expected melancholy note. The man in the song has recently broken up with a girl, and the Canadian crooner reflects on his part in the failed relationship, singing, “When times were rough / I made sure I held you close to me.”

“Try Me” is up next, and begins very similarly to the prior song. However, once the beat drops it is definitely a more upbeat track, layered with cool, pitched vocals along with claps and hi-hats that hit every pocket hotter than, well, Hot Pockets.

My personal favorite song is “Wasted Times,” where The Weeknd “reminisces” on his past lover: “Wasted times / I spent with someone else / She wasn’t even half of you / Reminiscin’ how you felt.” This track will fit in perfectly to a chill summer playlist, and the mid-song breakdown from Skrillex is definitely a highlight of the project.

The next two songs on the EP are “I Was Never There,” and “Hurt You,” both produced by French DJ Gesaffelstein, who provides the song with smooth beat switches that allow Abel to showcase his vocal variety, effortlessly changing the vibes mid-song.

The final track is “Privilege,” on which the singer asserts his renewed independence, and warns his ex not to come calling again, since “I held you down when you were suffering.” The song is a strong closer, and definitely emphasizes the “dear melancholy” the Weeknd lays out in the album’s title.

If you are a fan of the Weeknd and have listened to his music before, you know the singer is never far from these conflicted emotions of love and despair, and the two feelings battle and blend on this EP to create a raw, soulful sound for modern ears.

Grade: A-, The Starboy comes back to Earth to bring the real.

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