Abel has returned.
Late Tuesday night, just as we were all preparing to brave Thanksgiving weekend, the King of the Fall came back with a new song called “Heartless.” The moment followed a series of hints—talks of “album mode,” a music video shoot, and a reactivated Instagram—that Chapter VI of the Weeknd saga was imminent. The anticipation culminated in the release of a new single at the very end of his Memento Mori Beats 1 Radio show.
So, now that we’ve had our first taste of the Weeknd’s new chapter, how are we feeling? How does “Heartless” fit into the tapestry of his past work? What hints can we draw about the direction of his next album? After giving this thing a few spins, we put together some of our biggest takeaways from the Weeknd’s new single.
This is peak dirtbag Weeknd
Remember when Abel split with Bella Hadid (before the two eventually got back together) and everyone fired off memes about how excited they were for a sad Weeknd album? Well, that’s not the direction he chose to take. Instead, Abel leans into the toxic side of his persona on “Heartless,” making it immediately clear where his head is at with the blunt opening line: “Never need a bitch, I'm what a bitch need.” From there, he weaves together a string of clasically dirtbag lines like, “I've been runnin’ through the pussy, need a dog pound/Hundred models gettin’ faded in the compound.” Also, while we’re here, shout out to Abel for going full Playboi Carti on us and using the word “stummy.” Legendary.
If you wanted deep, sensitive lyrics, you won’t find them here. Instead, Abel spends the whole song flexing (“Photoshoots, I’m a star now/I’m talkin’ Time, Rolling Stone, and Bazaar now”). As soon as I saw the cover artwork for “Heartless,” I hoped for a song that would be up to the task of soundtracking post-2 a.m. debauchery in Vegas, and that’s exactly what he delivered. There’s still time for more emotionally-nuanced songwriting on the rest of the album, so this is a great way to approach a single.
Naturally, gossip sites are pouring over these lyrics and making assumptions that he’s referring to past breakups with Selena Gomez and Bella Hadid, but he doesn’t explicitly name either of them. We’ll have to wait and see if he opens up and explains the inspirations whenever he sits for an interview.
Abel sounds great with Metro Boomin
“Metro Boomin turn this ho into a moshpit.” Last year, Abel shared a screenshot of a FaceTime conversation with Metro Boomin on Instagram, and now we know what they were plotting. This isn’t the first time Metro has ever lent production to a song featuring Weeknd vocals (his credits include “Six Feet Under” and “Low Life”) but it is great to hear them together again. Co-producing the song with Illangelo, Metro lays down a dark, bass-heavy palette that provides the perfect musical backdrop for a cocky Weeknd who delivers lines like, “So much pussy, it be fallin' out the pocket.” Abel has always sounded great when he dabbles in dark trap production, and he’s found an ideal musical counterpart in Metro Boomin. Let’s hope there’s more to come.
“Heartless” seems primed for a high-profile remix
The song has only been out for 12 hours, so I might be jumping the gun by talking about remixes already, but wouldn’t this shit sound great with an additional verse from someone like Travis Scott or Future? Maybe I’m just used to hearing Travis’ vocals on Metro beats, but as soon as I heard Abel singing about losing his heart and mind over dramatic production on the bridge, I half-expected to hear an Auto-Tune-soaked verse from Trav to finish the song. Alternatively, fellow Toxic King Future would find a very natural home on a dirtbag anthem like “Heartless.” Imagine! Thanks to Illangelo, this thing also has electronic sensibilities that make it a prime target for countless club remixes.
Chapter VI is off to a strong start
Within moments of the release of “Heartless,” fans were already comparing it to past Weeknd eras like Starboy and Trilogy. But removed from the baggage of unreasonable expectations, this is a very strong first step in Abel’s next chapter. He doesn’t reinvent the wheel, nor does he regress to the stylistic sensibilities of his earliest work. Instead, he comes through with an immediately satisfying song that stands on its own footing. And, as another leaked song called “Blinding Lights” proves, he has plenty more tricks up his sleeve (and musical directions to explore) as Chapter VI unfolds. Stay tuned.