I was first introduced to The Weeknd by my then-boyfriend, who made me listen to House of Balloons a few weeks after it was released in March 2011. It turned out to be possibly the best thing he ever did for me. I don’t even know how to describe the first time I heard High for This, the first song from the mixtape; my face contorted, my brain exploded, and I was rooted to the spot. Not able to speak for a few minutes after it was over, I mentally highlighted that day as a Major Moment in my life.
Abel Tesfaye of Toronto is another of those hugely talented and successful people who are very close to me in age, making me feel hugely inadequately and infintessimaly small. At 16 months my senior, he has played Coachella, Wireless, a huge sell-out intimate tour across America, and has been praised by every credible music authority out there. He’s worked with Drake and Wiz Khalifa; set up his own record label; had a single covered by Ellie Goulding; remixed Marry the Night by Lady Gaga, and generally dominated the internet. His most-watched video on YouTube is Wicked Games, which has just over 13 million views, accumulated over a year. To put this into context, Nicki Minaj’s latest effort for Va Va Voom, a strong contender for worst video of my lifetime, has just over 11 million views since its release three weeks ago.
Clearly, there is something wrong with YouTube users. But you didn’t need me to tell you that.
The Weekend released three mixtapes for free download from March to December 2011, House of Balloons, Thursday and Echoes of Silence. As you might imagine, Trilogy is a three-CD compilation, with three added tracks, of his 2011 work. Apart from being his first work committed to physical tangible form, it’s a milestone in a career that has barely started but feels like it’s been going forever. Definitely headphone/decent speaker music – I implore you to do it justice.
It goes without saying that you need to be in the right mood for a Weeknd track; they’re all about drugs, alcohol, girls, the trappings of fame and the dangers of facing reality. You would be forgiven for thinking you were indirectly high merely from listening to the music, never mind what you were actually doing. The emotion and sensuality in Tesfaye’s voice is captivating and, as he gets lost in the song, you do too. Perhaps one of his most powerful songs and certainly his most popular, Wicked Games is slow, mournful and expressive, with drops and shifts in the bass it pulls at your heartstrings whilst pounding your eardrums. Expletives and obscenities don’t sound so bad when Tesfaye’s singing it.
There’s also a clear progression in his music, with Echoes of Silence being his most emotional and heart-wrenching to date. A cover of Michael Jackson’s Dirty Diana, abbreviated to D.D., further draws comparisons that, like Jackson, Tesfaye is the musical talent of our generation. And I’m not going to argue with that. His music is forthright, honest, soulful and meaningful, which is no mean feat considering all he talks about, for the most part, is really great parties.
What is amazing about Trilogy is that it already sounds like a Greatest Hits album, but he’s only been on the public consciousness for 18 months. Surely the only question is, what next?