Abel Testafye, better known as The Weeknd has finally found a spot in the pop world of music. The Weeknd has been part of an underground cult following since 2011 with three mixtapes called The House of Balloons, Thursday and Echoes of Silence. Those three mixtapes plus three bonus tracks formed the Trilogy, a collection of dark and heavy songs covered in sex, drugs and broken hearts or lack there of. Later, in 2013 he released KissLand, which was an attempt to find a new sound leaving his hardcore base fans a little disappointed. His dark, depressing sound has been celebrated by a certain group of people who enjoyed keeping him to themselves. Abel himself even wrote an apology letter to his fans saying that he could feel he was entering a new world of recognition and that he knew he would lose some fans that were there from the beginning. In 2014, he began his cross over into the pop world with a fiery duet with Nickeoldeon star AriannaGrande. Their song, “Love Me Harder” charted at number 7 on Billboard’s top 100. The song’s success gained the attention of the music directors of Fifty Shades of Grey. What a perfect match! “Earned It” was a backdrop to the movie and opened him up to a whole new crowd of suburban housewives.
Beauty Behind the Madness is a perfect balance for his old and new fans. Many have been interested to know what sound would be produced after teaming back up with original producer Illangelo from his first mixtapes and adding Kanye West to the mix. He opens up the album with “Real Life” and the warnings of his mother about his choice of lifestyle. This sounds much like an ode to ‘Billie Jean’ which would make sense since he is a well known Michael Jackson fan. The Weeknd is apologizing to his mother for his drug induced nights and heartless ways but he feels this is just how he is and its too late to change now. In a sense, his sinful lyrics have been the reason for his success in the music industry thus far. The Weeknd was a homeless high school drop out wandering the streets of Toronto at the start of his career. “Losers” is kind of a slap in the face to everyone who didn’t believe in him. Abel and Labrinth together are too cool for school and challenge the idea of both love and the thought that school is a vital part of life. He feels he has taught himself the ropes in life and doesn’t regret the route he took.
“Tell Your Friends” is the voice of this album. For his original fans incase you thought he might be getting too soft, this is a reminder that he is still the same pill popping, sex fiend with the wild hair that you first fell in love with. He knows they love his lifestyle and want to be a part of it so this song is for the ones who were there from the start. The Weeknd has always been known to shy away from interviews and the spotlight. But now he is enjoying the attention and is ready to meet the world. He has choices now and is ready to leave the underground so please…go tell your friends about it.
Sabahattin Ali was a poet who’s words are used in the opening of “Often” which translates to “My each and every day takes years. I’m tired of being alone.” He is tired of his lonely life and needs some temporary company to heal the pain for now. On this track he explains that he’s used to getting women to do what they’ve never done before and keeps cocaine in his pocket to heighten the experience.
“The Hills” is the classic sound from Abel singing about late night booty-calls in the hills of Hollywood. The late filmmaker, Wes Craven, tweeted that he was inspired by this track. “Acquainted” is The Weeknd’s version of a love song to a woman. While he still will never admit to being in love, this song tells that someone is holding his attention longer than he expected. He is putting in time for this woman and his friends think he’s lost it. Instead of saying he’s so glad this woman is a part of his life, he is still trying to get used to the idea of love and is pleased to make her acquaintance. “Cant Feel My Face” has a secret layer of The Weeknd’s love for drugs on a Michael Jackson inspired track that climbed its way up the pop chart because at first listen it doesn’t sound like its about cocaine. A first time listener of The Weeknd’s music would think he is singing about a woman who makes him lose feeling and he loves it. But real fans know that this song is clearly about his long time relationship with drugs.
“Shameless” almost makes you feel like Abel really does have a heart underneath all the weed smoke pouring from his lungs. He seems to understand the woman who uses sex to fix her problems. He can relate and wants her to know he will always be there to help her get through it. He probably sees himself in this woman and in his own way shows some compassion to the lost souls of the world. The NY Times did an interview stating that “In The Night” was about a girl’s childhood sexual abuse. She uses the stripper pole at night to escape from her past. Just like in “Shameless” I think The Weeknd has a soft heart for the abused, depressed, and lonely women of the world. This is another Michael Jackson inspired sound that will most likely appeal only to those who can relate personally to the story.
“As You Are” is about a relationship destined to break both parties’ hearts. Abel knows this but still wants to go forward because its better than feeling nothing even for a moment. He sees the potential in the most broken, scarred women. He seems to find peace and purpose digging through someone else’s baggage. Maybe it makes him feel normal? If you think adding Ed Sheeran to a Weeknd album is random, it is. The two met at an award show, partied all night and wrote a song the next day. “Dark Times” is a warning label for women that they are not the best choice for partners. Not sure if Ed was inspired by TheWeeknd’s party favors and antics or if he’s always been this way and felt comfortable letting it out with someone like him. Either way, the song will be interesting to see performed live.
“Prisoner” was produced by The Weeknd himself and he invited the lovely Lana Del Rey to help him explain falling in love for the first time. He says love will always be a lesson and he wants to get out of it’s way. He feels prisoner to his addictive cold life but now this feeling of love is throwing his senses off. He knows emptiness so well that the thought of someone fulfilling him is terrifying. “Angel” is the last song on this album and maybe for good reason. Throughout this album he is battling falling in love and the feelings of uncertainty that come with relationships. He has found a real life earth angel and he thinks he will only ruin her. She brings light in his dark world but he still can’t seem to let go of his desensitized emotions. He wants her to find somebody better to love. Maty Noyes, who pops up in this song as the “angel” may have found her start to her singing career thanks to The Weeknd.
BBTM is a great rendition of an artist who is coming out from the shadows and entering a different type of fame. Not many musicians can find a balance between the core sounds of their roots and the desire to be accepted by the entire music industry as a whole. Many times artists just seem to change their sound and look overnight. The Weeknd has snuck into the realm of pop culture leaving a trail of coke and spilled drinks on the way.