The Weeknd Teases Upcoming Album With ‘Heartless’ and ‘Blinding Lights’ Singles

The Weeknd has been missing in action for quite some time. Other than a couple sporadic tracks — “Lost in the Fire” with former collaborator Gesaffelstein, and the Game of Thrones-inspired “Power is Power” with Travis Scott and SZA — he has kept a low profile since his “My Dear Melancholy” EP last March. That release was a thoroughly salty affair, with Abel Tesfaye descending headlong into the abyss over relationship drama with former flames Selena Gomez and Bella Haddid. Now, he has finally released two new tracks, and it appears that the latter is still holding the reins, somewhat. Tesfaye deactivated his Instagram account early this year, suggesting an embittered withdrawl into reclusive existence, and a disavowal of the sphere in which influencers like Haddid herself help engender debacles like 2017’s Fyre Festival. But just as this decade comes to a close, he has returned, embracing Insta once again, just last week, and starting to tease an upcoming album. He released the lead single “Heartless” on Nov. 27, followed by a second song, “Blinding Lights” on Nov. 29. The two strikingly different tracks show him still grappling with the same issues, and channeling them simultaneously into divergent paths. 

“Heartless” arrived with a tweet from Tesfaye declaring, “Tonight we start a brain melting psychotic chapter.” The psychotic part is accurate enough, although you shouldn’t expect anything all that mind-bending. The song finds the singer at once fractured and somewhat effervescent, straddling the line between wallowing in despair and emerging newly callous and cool. He reiterates several references from old songs, framing the track is another stage in an ongoing saga. He sings of “dodging death” as he did on 2016’s “Rambo (Remix,)” and at one point claims “I lost my heart and my mind,” following naturally from another classic tweet from last August, entreating, “Please, help me find my mind.” The twist comes, however, in the title, quite different in its reference from Kanye West’s song of the same name. In this case, it’s not a femme fatale described as “heartless,” but Tesfaye himself. Still, naming the song “Heartless,” and throwing the titular phrase into a chorus that merely flips the script of Kanye’s song is bit suspect, to the say the least. 

Tesfaye sings, “All this money and this pain got me heartless / Low life for life ’cause I’m heartless.” He teased this idea before on Future’s “Low Life,” singing, “‘Cause I’m always reppin’ for that low life,” and the new song finds him owning it. This comes alongside gems like ““so much pussy, it be falling out the pocket“ and talk of “selling dreams to these girls with their guard down,” suggesting that Tesfaye is through with the sapiness, and unabashedly taking a darker turn. On the other hand, he continues, “I don’t do well when alone / You hear it clear in my tone,” and indeed you can, as the feeble whining can get get a bit hard to take. Then again, this is part of his shtick, and as usual, Tesfaye crafts a punchy song out of it. There’s a midsong beat change, at which point the catchy chorus hits, and the previously breezy track takes on new gravity, with Tesfaye bellowing in the spotlight amid restrained Auto-tune and atmospherics, making a definite impact.

It could be mere coincidence that Tesfaye’s “Heartless” bears the same name as the biggest song from Kanye’s “808s and Heartbreak,” but this possibility appears more fanciful yet we we consider Tefayse’s other release, “Blinding Lights” alongside the biggest song from Kanye’s followup “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” “All of the Lights.” Someone sounds uninspired, lazily reaching, and shameless. Fortunately, “Blinding Lights” is a different type of song altogether, and also remarkably different from our other taste of the new album, with Tesfaye here stepping outside the R&B and associated hip-hop parameters that generally characterize his music, and taking on heavily ‘80s-informed, flamboyant synth pop stylings. He has cited such groups as the Smiths and the Talking Heads among his influences before, and while this track doesn’t scream of either, it is superficially closer in its aesthetics to sounds of indie pop artists that draw inspiration from similar sources. Tesfaye explored such sounds on 2016’s “Starboy,” but does so more overtly this time, donning something of a new voice altogether, and basking in buoyant pop production. Again, he continues the soap opera, bemoaning “I’ve been on my own for long enough,” as he’s been stating since “Rolling Stone” from his 2011 mixtape “Thursday.” If we take this as another reference to Bella Haddid, it’s not necessarily that long, going by rumors that the two “officially” broke up in August. Whereas “Heartless” found Tesfaye flaunting vice and living large, this song finds him again vulnerable, lamenting, “Sin City’s cold and empty,” and admitting, “I can’t see clearly when you’re gone.” 

At any rate, we can credit the drama for “My Dear Melancholy,” which contained some of Tesfaye’s most inspired and fully realized material since his groundbreaking early mixtapes. The new songs, on the other hand, are more streamlined, catch-all efforts, closer in spirit to his most commercial endeavors. Fittingly, “Blinding Lights” is featured in a Mercedes Benz television advertisement for the brand’s new electric SUV, the EQC 400, and it’s an ideal song for such a purpose. If we take the two released tracks as an example, we might expect the Weeknd’s upcoming album to fall somewhere in between another sob fest and a rebound to ladykiller posturing, with both melismatic crooning over trap beats and bombastic new wave-revival revelry. There is currently no set release date, although a late 2019 release has been suggested. The saga continues.  

Heartless” released on Nov. 27 and “Blinding Lights” on Nov. 29 everywhere digitally.