While the subject matter of sex and drugs might not be anything new to the genre, his voice is clearly his own.
The Weeknd – House of Balloons/Thursday/Echoes Of Silence
Canadian musician Abel Tesfaye, better known as The Weeknd, is changing the hip-hop game. In fact, it is hardly the same game at all. While the subject matter of sex and drugs might not be anything new to the genre, his voice is clearly his own.
The opening song on House of Balloons (the first mixtape in an epic trilogy), “High For This” is the perfect introduction to the whole series. It exemplifies not only his sexually explicit, drug fueled lyrical content, but also musical style, influences and his incredible voice. House of Balloons is full of hazy vocals, crackly buzzing synths and bone rattling base but is still somehow beyond catchy. This album is exceptionally good at showcasing his wide musical influences featuring samples from bands like Beach House, Siouxsie and the Banshee’s and Aaliyah. Not to mention the similarities in his vocal styling to one of the most popular and influential artists of all time… but we will talk more about that later. I should mention how adult the content in The Weeknd’s music is, especially on House of Balloons. Songs like “Loft Music” and “The Knowing “ will make you feel the need for a shower… make it extra cold.
Moving on to Thursday, the second mixtape in the trio. Released only 4 months after House of Balloons, Thursday was met with the anticipation of something that took years to drop. For me Thursday is a fantastic sequel but like the most epic movie trilogies, the second installment never hits the levels that the original does. The music is well arranged and the recording quality is probably the best out of the three tapes. Unfortunately the lyrics lacking the depth we know from House of Balloons, and the vocals are a little showy. Hip-hop artist Drake expressed a lot of interest in The Weeknd during his first release, but got heavily involved in the making of Thursday. Drake even makes a very significant appearance on my personal favorite “The Zone”.
“D.D.” (Dirty Diana) is probably the best Michael Jackson cover ever. The Weekend is somehow able to emulate Jackson’s voice to a ‘T’. Almost as if he is channeling him from the beyond. But his singing in general bares undeniable similarities to the prince of pop.
Where Thursday falters Echoes Of Silence redeems tenfold. The rhymes are tighter, vocals crisper, lyrics bolder and the music more intoxicating. The song “Initiation” will put you in a trance with a pitch effect on the vocals bringing you higher and higher and lower and lower again and again. And after listing to the lyrics you will feel as if you have been doing something you shouldn’t, but in a good way. The bleak unsettling beauty of Echoes Of Silence will keep you tossing and turning at night and you will waking up with the lyrics running through your head and yet you can’t get enough.
I chose to do the whole mixtape series in one review because I feel it is truly one story. The music feels so honest that it could almost be autobiographical and maybe that’s just how it turned out. It is a story of unfaithfulness, a broken heart, revenge, escape, sex, drugs, misplaced anger, getting super faded and dealing with the inevitable come down, reality and the deep emptiness that follows the peak. But most of all it’s a story about choices and consequences.
I am not one to give high praise to just anything. Even if I am in love with an album I would have a hard time giving anything over an 8, but The Weeknd is one of the most unique and talented artist on the scene today. With a career that has not even commercially started, we have a lot to look forward to. X.O.