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New Music: The Weeknd

By Danielle Kim, September 29 2015 —

Toronto singer Abel Tesfaye first started releasing mixtapes under his alias The Weeknd in 2011 and has only grown in popularity since. His signature dark R&B sound contrasts with a melodic falsetto to create an atmosphere of sinister glamour.

Tesfaye’s style has captivated the world. His second studio album, Beauty Behind The Madness, is his first record to hit the number one Billboard spot, cementing Tesfaye’s status as a pop music icon.

The Weeknd experiments with a fuller, more instrumental sound on Beauty Behind the Madness compared to his previous works. It’s a risk that pays off in the first two tracks, “Real Life” and “Losers.” A mix of wailing electric guitar and soulful trumpets, strings and piano give a previously missing dimension to Tesfaye’s music. The album then transitions into a mellow space with “Tell Your Friends,” as the singer’s tone turns boastful and the underlying beat leans towards traditional R&B. ENT_TheWeeknd-webz

Long-time fans will notice a departure as Tesfaye’s signature dark sound is abandoned for catchy pop anthems. The endlessly overplayed “Can’t Feel My Face” and “In The Night” are head-bobbing tracks reminiscent of early Michael Jackson singles.

Despite his shift to pop, The Weeknd continues to shroud his lyricism with the dark cloud listeners are accustomed to. His imagery is filled with innuendo and focuses on themes like sexual objectification, drugs and emotional detachment.

Two duets help close out the album. Tesfaye teams up with Ed Sheeran on “Dark Times,” a slow and moody ballad with a backdrop of bluesy guitar. Sheeran’s voice has the same pleading quality as Tesfaye’s, making the track smooth and resonant. Next, Lana del Rey lends her haunting vocals on “Prisoner.” Paired with a dreamy synth pop backing track, the duo produce an eerily heartfelt serenade.

Beauty Behind The Madness is a mesmerizing listen with beautiful ambience. It succeeds in exploring an evolved and more polished version of The Weeknd’s style while staying close to the defining sound that attracted so much attention in the first place.


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