After months of teasing, an Instagram hiatus and making his fans wait with bated breath through a two-hour radio show, The Weeknd finally dropped two new singles last week. The elusive rhythm and blues artist, born Abel Tesfaye, is redefining the end of the fall season with new tracks “Heartless” and “Blinding Lights.”
Produced by Metro Boomin’, “Heartless” has the pulsing bass and debaucherous lyrics of his 2014 release “King of the Fall.” Beginning with the line, “Never need a b-tch, I’m what a b-tch needs,” this track heralds the return of The Weeknd’s promiscuous ways, notably after his split from model Bella Hadid in August.
“Heartless” describes how the money and pain that come with The Weeknd’s lifestyle render him unable to sustain a long-term relationship, a theme touched on throughout much of his discography, most descriptively in “The Birds Pt. 1.” In the bridge, Tesfaye croons in falsetto, questioning why his lover continues to see the good in him despite being clearly shown otherwise.
The thumping bass is certainly party-friendly, but the lyrics leave much to be desired. Sure, bragging about bedding models and snorting copious amounts of cocaine is The Weeknd’s bread and butter, but “Heartless” lacks the depth to give it any real weight or meaning. Plenty of rap songs have great production and scandalous themes, but what sets The Weeknd apart are his poignant descriptions of loneliness and intimacy. While his old tracks paired the drugs and debauchery with insightful musings on heartbreak, “Heartless” barely scratches the surface.
“Blinding Lights,” on the other hand, sounds like the Stranger Things soundtrack crossed with the artist’s 2016 song “False Alarm.” A snippet of the song was premiered in a Mercedes-Benz advertisement before its official release at midnight on Black Friday. While it might sound like a “Starboy” album reject, the punchy ‘80s synth beats make this track the ideal radio-friendly single to kick off The Weeknd’s sixth chapter.
He digs a bit deeper on this second release, which also alludes to stardom’s effects on his love life. While he’s blinded by the lights and fast life of fame, he feels lost until he is comforted by his lover’s presence. Although he keeps up the facade of a merciless player on “Heartless,” “Blinding Lights” is a rare glimpse at the singer’s soft side. He admits that fame is “cold and empty,” and he is not ready to give up on his lover.
Hopefully The Weeknd’s new album incorporates more of his trademark bedroom-friendly jams and mournful, drug-addled ballads. “Blinding Lights” shows promise that he will finally give his fans the gut-wrenching lyrics they’ve been yearning for.
While an official release date for the album has yet to be announced, Fans speculated that the album may drop on Dec. 20, the last day of fall, following a cryptic tweet by the artist.
“We’re creating a beautiful new universe,” he tweeted on Saturday. “Haven’t been this excited in a very long time.”
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Dec. 2, 2019 print edition. Email Lauren Gruber at [email protected]