The Weeknd and the Beauty Behind His Madness…

7 Music / New Music

You could never really say The Weeknd kicked the industries’ door in on arrival. Its more fitting to say he snuck in the back door like a thief in the night and he’s been doing a madness ever since. Whether to personify it as setting fire to the whole thing like an arsonist or tying up the kids and killing the parents in bed, I’m not sure. But all the metaphors in the world couldn’t aptly describe his connection with his fans and the foothold he has in the game right now.

It’s been almost five years since he first started sowing seeds of change, and making the most alternative R&B I’ve (possibly anyone’s) ever heard. We very quickly went from tired love songs & thug singing, to a change no one saw coming but everyone was thankful for. R&B hadn’t always been a totally happy lane to be in musically, but you knew what to expect when you heard it. That was until The Weeknd anonymously uploaded three tracks on YouTube and kindled a tiny flame that eventually set the internet ablaze.

Fast forward almost five years, and he’s on his third project & second official studio album, Beauty behind the Madness which is equally both beautiful and mad in its composition, completely committed to its theme. Whilst Kiss Land felt like a story and was composed as though it was one song, flowing from one track to the next seamlessly. This album is truly mad by comparison. There’s no real sense or order to it, and yet it’s still resoundingly beautiful. Every track is a tale in itself.

Whilst not quite as raw sounding as his first, I still think the core fans will fuck with it because overall he hasn’t lost his, for lack of a better term, brand. The album is still chock full of themes of longing and depression, with lyrics that urge you commit to your vices and hug your victim complex close. It’s for people who fancy themselves monsters. In truth, The Weeknd makes monsters out of all of us.

“The Weeknd makes monsters out of all of us.”

However, the new album has a certain mass appeal that I don’t like. Is that the label interference I hear? I could be wrong, but there was a tiny hint of the feeling I’m being sold something, therefore I’m not buying it. There was a certain degree of it on Kiss Land and it’s more obvious on this album. There are parts of it that have a semi ‘disco feel’ and after having watched The Weeknd carefully in the run up to the release from the shows, to videos and then finally fine combing the album, it feels like he’s aspiring for the late MJ’s position as the king of pop.

A noble pursuit and I see how it makes sense, but I’d prefer if he did it without compromising the sound at all. Ultimately I’m not sure if I just sound like a fan demanding the artists not grow and stay true to what I initially liked about them, but the new direction is a bit much for me. I mean, I can appreciate it, because the tracks are well composed, produced and damn it, the man can sing, but I’m still not sure if it’s a direction I can come to grips with.

One thing I love about this album is what I’ve always liked about The Weeknd, that similar to rap music, he shows the harsher realities of life, love and a lack thereof. It’s real. Love hurts, not being loved hurts more and we do seemingly mad things to avoid these painful facts. We get addicted to the things that help us bear with these truths. It’s no secret that his music is for the ones who don’t believe in happy endings. Those looking for love but find themselves underserving.

His overt use of dark themes like vice and promiscuity has helped him carve out his slice of the pie till now and while others have tried to imitate it, none of them do it quite as well as he does. He speaks on depression, lost love and a pursuit of happiness through drugs that most artists only ever tip toed around. His work opened the door to rappers broaching certain topics to ride the wave, penning verses on lean & promethazine, and I have to wonder, as much as I love their work, without The Weeknd, would we have the Future’s, Travis Scott’s & Belly’s?

“Without The Weeknd, would we have the Future’s, Travis Scott’s & Belly’s?”

Now when it comes to the individual tracks, I have three firm favourite songs on this album and I won’t be bullied or bartered into choosing just one. I just can’t. I have to say I love Real Life, Dark Times & Prisoner. All three boast pretty much every vibe, feel and theme I associate with him and love his music for. Everyone likes a bit of consistency. The Hills would’ve made the cut, but I’ve just heard it way too many times now and I’m sick of it. The seasons change, birds fly south for the winter and popular songs get rinsed. It’s just one of those facts of life.

Now the track I hate the absolute most on the album is the supposed song of the summer Can’t Feel My face. I don’t fuck with it. I mean, I appreciate it, but I don’t fuck with it. Because it fully encompasses the ‘disco feel’ I feel certain songs on this album have and I feel that’s where it takes a turn for the ‘sell-out’. This track feels too much like The Weeknd trying to be something instead of just being. Whats more, the commercial success of the track only served to reinforce my thoughts.

Having said that, through his fearless open letter lyrics, experimentation and open drug use, the Toronto star has created his own lane musically. The Weeknd may just be the most enigmatic artists in the industry at the moment, Or at the very least the darkest. With vocals that rival the legendary Michael Jackson’s and more modern topics ranging from promiscuity to cocaine use, he’s well on his way to becoming (well not quite the king of pop) but a king in his own right.

Overall, regardless of my reservations, this album is a well-crafted amazing piece of work and one I’m going to enjoy listening to for a while! I give this album 4/5 PMB faces


Words by Ahmed