The Weeknd’s single “Heartless” does not measure up to his musical legacy

The Weeknd reemerges into the music industry after a year-long hiatus with new track “Heartless”

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The Weeknd’s single “Heartless” does not measure up to his musical legacy

Annie Zhang

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Canandian falsetto singer The Weeknd is a hip hop and R&B artist famed for his musical artistry and sensual hits such as “Starboy,” “I Can’t Feel My Face” and “The Hills.” The mass of his works exude depressive tones coupled with lyrics that evoke vulnerability in vocal style and sound. Occasionally, The Weeknd wades from the R&B genre and produces more upbeat tracks that fall under the mainstream trending pop genre. 

After his last release in March 2018, the “My Dear Melancholy,” album, the artist took over a year hiatus, followed by a five month long social media break. Last week, The Weeknd reactivated his Instagram account and made a cryptic teaser post, hinting at new music.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

the fall starts tomorrow night.

A post shared by The Weeknd (@theweeknd) on

On Nov. 26, The Weeknd released his single “Heartless” marking his reemergence. Three days later, The Weeknd dropped another single titled “Blinding Lights.” “Heartless,” dubbed a “new brain melting psychotic chapter” by the artist, alludes to the artist being numbed by money, pain and dead end romantic endeavors, thus translating to his “heartless” persona featured in the song.

The song starts off with a rhythmic, fantasy-like sound with steady rippling notes in the background, overlayed with higher pitched beats that play in intervals. As the song progresses, both the background and the synthesizer sounds amplify and intermix to form one joint sound. 

One of the most musically satisfying parts of the song is the beat drop that occurs right after four high-pitched beats in the introduction. The placement of the beat drop was fitting, as after four notes, it felt adequate for a change in the song’s dynamic. The Weeknd evokes anticipation and excitement through a slow, dragged out song buildup — the beat drop offsets such feelings and delivers perfectly to what the listener expects. 

After the beat drop, a steady trap tempo is coupled with hums and murmurs that when paired together, sound seamlessly complete, complementing the fast rhythm. The Weeknd doesn’t sing until 23 seconds into the single; by this, he’s allotted a sufficient amount of time to stage a whirlwind of feelings — apprehension, excitement and hype — that mirrors his comeback into the industry. 

However, the song takes a turn when awkward, clumsily composed drum cymbals come in when The Weeknd starts to sing. The cymbals chop up his flow delivery and don’t offer any kind of freshness or contrast that would elevate the song quality. Instead, the cymbals seem strangely placed, as they aren’t played at the end of a line in a verse, but rather are interspersed in the middle of a line. 

The rest of the song uses a steady trap beat mirroring the song’s introduction. In essence, the song was bland and used repetitive sounds and tempos — after the bass drop, there wasn’t any significant highlight of the song. It was hard to distinguish what the chorus was until it was repeated, as there was not much of a grand transition or spotlight on the chorus’s sound. 

The chorus’s lyrics are as follows: 

Why? ‘Cause I’m heartless

And I’m back to my ways ’cause I’m heartless

All this money and this pain got me heartless

Low life for life ’cause I’m heartless

Said I’m heartless

Tryna be a better man, but I’m heartless

Never be a weddin’ plan for the heartless

Low life for life ’cause I’m heartless”

The chorus of “Heartless” evokes the song’s primary message of being “numbed” to bad habits, money, pain and the illusion of a real love, as a “weddin’ plan” wasn’t granted to him. Though he rejects the notion of a pure “wedding” love, The Weeknd cites instances of longing for love in the bridge. These chorus lines demonstrate an idol being worn down by stardom and fame, as well as the inborn frustration of being a “low life,” as he has dubbed himself in “Gone,” his 2011 release. 

The Weeknd introduces a falsetto bridge coupled with a deep bass that was spaced out evenly to draw out the smoothness of his voice. Afterwards, the backtrack’s volume is reduced to further exhibit The Weeknd’s enticing voice. The bridge was very pleasing to listen to, as his voice and the backtrack accompanied each other well to showcase the assets of his voice while simultaneously building excitement. 

The bridge’s lyrics are as follows: 

“I lost my heart and my mind 

I try to always do right 

I thought I lost you this time 

You just came back in my life 

You never gave up on me (Why don’t you?)”

The bridge of “Heartless” elicits vulnerability, insecurity and doubt — these emotionally appealing lyrics contrast the “flexing” nature of the song. The first line of the bridge, “I lost my heart and my mind,” can possibly be attributed to a tweet from The Weeknd last August, which may allude to a dark or emotionally challenging recollection during his lifetime, perhaps during his hiatus: 

Overall, though “Heartless” wasn’t a bad song, it was underwhelming given the amount of hype that The Weeknd dropped for this release. The song didn’t have much variety and didn’t showcase a unique facet that deviated from mainstream R&B and hip hop, as shown by the repetitive sounds. His previous sensual hits and musical legacies — ”Starboy,” “I Can’t Feel My Face” and “The Hills” — all delivered a sound that was more refreshing and dramatic yet bold. “Heartless” displayed a mixture of emotion and “flexing” hype, making the song’s message and composition seem choppy. Though this release wasn’t The Weeknd’s most renowned musical work, his comeback into the music industry and his future works are worth anticipating.