The Weeknd launches first big mainstream album
It is safe to say that The Weeknd is hot! The American R&B artist, born as Abel Tesfaye, has been a rising star over the past few years with the release of his first mix tapes, then signing a major label and releasing his debut album Kiss Land in 2013. It wasn’t until he contributed the song ‘Earned It’ to the sountrack of the Fifty Shades of Grey movie that he became a pop star who was played on the radio every hour. He sounds a bit poppier than before, but maintains his signature style on Beauty Behind the Madness, the second album he released on the 28th of August.
A year ago it wouldn’t really have been thinkable that The Weeknd would collaborate with star composer and producer Max Martin, but after the success of ‘Earned It’ it didn’t seem like such a strange move anymore. Actually, it was an important step forward in his career as the collaboration ‘Can’t Feel My Face’ was his first single that reached the number 1 on the American charts. And you know what is even better about all this? It never feels like The Weeknd had to compromise to get there. The track is a delicious mix of pop, disco, funk and R&B. The incredibly catchy ‘In The Night’ takes the poppy vibe even further, but never feels watered down.
An important factor in keeping Abel’s signature all over it, are his uncompromising lyrics. Every track is about sex, drugs and rock & roll and there is nothing subtle about it. He makes clear he knows this himself on the in your face promo single ‘Tell Your Friends’: “I’m that nigga with the hair, singing ’bout poppin’ pills, fucking bitches, living life so trill”, he declares. Other than that, ‘Can’t Feel My Face’ deals with hard drugs, ‘Often’ is about having one night stands all night and then there is the outstanding ‘The Hills’ that seems his very own magnum opus, both lyrically and sonically. The Weeknd states “When I’m fucked up, that’s the real me” and “drugs started feelin’ like it’s decaf” while he “fucked two other bitches ‘fore I saw you” over a dark and bloody brilliant progressive R&B production with distorted vocals that hit the exactly right tone and mood.
Of course even Abel has his softer spots, which he shows on his collaborations on this record. ‘Dark Times’ with Ed Sheeran is a beautiful ballad while his gorgeous duet with Lana Del Rey, ‘Prisoner’, screams to be a single. This track which they composed together fits their different but matching voices and styles perfectly and could be a great next step for both of their careers. The most ear catching collaboration however, is with the young American singer Maty Noyes who completely steals the show with just the sentence ‘I hope you find somebody’ on the epic and atmospheric closer, ‘Angel’. It might be the most touching track on the whole record and shows Abel’s incredible talent to write potential timeless classics.
The Weeknd has found a way to present his music to a larger audience with a slightly more accessible sound in an uncompromising way. If he manages to explore these talents even further and succeeds in keeping the balance between mainstream and alternative R&B, he could become one of the greatest in his genre.
Must listen: The Hills, Prisoner, Can’t Feel My Face, Angel, Tell Your Friends