Throughout 2011, the internet saw a trilogy of free releases by an act only known as The Weeknd. With each release the public began to know more and more about this mysterious figure with the incredible voice and conflicted, yet compelling lyrics. Since then we have learned a little about the man behind The Weeknd, Canadian singer Abel Tesfaye. The first in his series and still arguably it’s best is House of Balloons, which sucks you in from the get go. The opener “High For This”, begins with a spacious beat and Tesfaye’s voice that sits somewhere between Prince and Michael Jackson. Then the thunderous chorus kicks in, surrounding the listener and bringing them into his world as he sings, “Open your hand/Take a glass/Don’t be scared/I’m right here…Trust me girl/You wanna be high for this”. And the ride begins, part of what sets this album apart from the following two releases is the perfect flow that each song has into the next but, maybe that was intended. “What You Need”, picks up nicely fitting into a classic R&B format and showcases the albums only pop leanings and then brings us into the banger “House of Balloons” (which samples the Siouxsie and the Banshees song “Happy House”). In the meantime Tesfaye is bringing the listener into a much darker world conflicted with sex, heartbreak and drug use, a narrative that will continue to follow over the next two releases.
Thursday, the second release in the trilogy is immediately much darker, featuring doom sounding guitars on “Life Of The Party” and the opening line “Welcome to the other side/Your lost baby circumcise your mind” and the lyrics take you deeper into the underground world that our narrator is getting himself involved in. Production wise, the music provides the perfect backdrop, always leaving enough space to allow Tesfaye’s voice to remain in the spotlight. The beats represent the numbness that comes with loss and confusion and there’s lot’s of post-punk influences that prove that R&B will not be trapped into a corner. Drake makes an appearance on “The Zone” offering an outsiders insight into this world. My favorite track on here is “Rolling Stone”, with flutters of Spanish guitar and lyrics lamenting about a broken heart and possibly his most revealing lyric ever “Baby I got you/Until your used to my face/And my mystery fades”.
Then lastly we have, Echoes Of Silence, act three. Once again Tesfaye set’s the mood of his albums with the opening track, this time a near perfect note for note rendition of Micheal Jackson’s “Dirty Diana” (titled D.D.). Have we finally figured out who the mysterious girl he’s been singing about has done to him? “Montreal” carries us with the most lavish production to appear on any of his albums as of yet and probably his closest thing to a single. There are a few moments on this record, particularly “XO/The Host” and “Initiation” that insist an act of retaliation against the protagonist, the aforementioned “girl” or “baby” and finally getting revenge for his heartbreak. But the final chapter to all of this is the closing song “Echoes Of Silence”, where through all his weed smoking, pill popping and womanizing nights he still finds himself crying out “Baby please/Would you end your night with me?/Don’t you leave me all behind/Don’t you leave my little life/”, one last cry out for love, a feeling anyone whose been on the bad end of a breakup knows. It’s easy to distract from the pain but, in the end no one wants to be alone.
The Weeknd brings his three act play to Boston’s House of Blues for two nights, October 22 and 23 with the first show selling out so fast that they added an additional one. You can find seats for those shows as well as other appearances right here.