The Weeknd aka Abel Tesfaye is one of the more interesting artists to break onto the scene during my time of music hyperawareness, which pretty much happened for me in 2011 at age 21 when Spotify made its way to the USA. Coincidentally, in 2011 The Weeknd dropped his first mixtape, House of Balloons, which I listened to and downloaded on Soundcloud and I remember loving the heady R&B vibe.
What I didn’t remember, and hat tip to Wikipedia for reminding me, is that 2011 is also the year of the final season of Entourage. Vinny Chase was just getting over his fling with drugs and Sasha Grey, and the Weeknd’s “High for This” was part of the promo leading into that final season.
Anyway, fast forward to 2015, after two more mixtapes and a decent debut album, and The Weeknd is killing shit. Abel went from being edited into a 20 second teaser for one sex-heavy show, to doing a hit song for a half a billion dollar grossing sex-heavy movie with “Earned It” from the Fifty Shades of Grey Soundtrack — which peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and has since been certified platinum, selling over a million copies.
This week sees the official release of his Kiss Land follow up:
Beauty Behind The Madness, a continuation of what makes Abel The Weeknd packaged for much wider consumption, in a good way.
One of the biggest questions of our music times is, is it a banger? And the first half of Beauty Behind The Madness is so much so that at times I feel bad for my downstairs neighbors. The Weeknd has always been good for at least a couple. On Kiss Land it was “Wanderlust” (here’s where I point you to the “Wanderlust – Pharrell Remix” because, well, just vibe to it) but “Pretty” and “Tears in the Rain” also made their way onto playlists for me.
Going back even further to his Trilogy of mixtapes collected into an album there’s “Wicked Games” from House of Balloons, “Thursday” from Thursday, and two from Echoes of Silence: “D.D.” his amazing cover of Michael Jackson’s “Dirty Diana” as well as “Same Old Song” featuring the legend Juicy J, who proudly proclaims “Listen to that shit man. The Weeknd music make ladies’ panties get wet.” Can’t argue with Juicy.
But I digress. Beauty Behind The Madness kicks off with a Yeezus quality banger’s banger in “Real Life” followed by a song you can’t help but nod your head to in “Losers” featuring Labrinth. That leads into the Kanye West produced “Tell Your Friends”, which could be the best track Kanye has produced for someone that he didn’t even rap on.
The album continues to be relatively boisterous over low and heavy speaker rumbling beats as The Weeknd brags about his drug game and sex game in as many ways as one possibly could. It’s there through the previously released singles “Often” and “The Hills” (currently at #5 on the Billboard charts), on “Acquainted” and on Song of Summer candidate and #1 hit “Cant Feel My Face”, before coming to the album’s peak on “In The Night”.
From there things take a turn toward a slower sexy-flexy ending which is easy to zone out on, but overall Beauty Behind The Madness is worth a few spins and should end up on a few Top 10s. It’s the best to come out in the sort of weak month of August, but we’ll see where it lands at the end of the year.
Stream the album below, and check out the other albums I’ve been listening to in my 2015 in Music playlist.