Sex sells. This has held true for centuries. Pin-up girl themes, Playboy magazines and pornography are proof of that. Every genre of music takes this into account and artists regularly exploit it; whether it is in a classy and appealing way or a dirty and almost vulgar way is subjective. The Weeknd is the perfect mix of both.
Abel Tesfaye as The Weeknd has been around for years, but only in the past year has he worked to become a household name.
In a distant, erotic but sweet dream, The Weeknd released “Earned It” as an accompaniment to the BDSM-themed film Fifty Shades of Grey at the end of 2014. The song was a testament to the crooner’s ability to dominate not only in his usual genre but also on the pop charts. The vocals by themselves can be appreciated by all types of fans but the entire package comes off as a seductive waltz leading into the bedroom.
After he successfully seduced the public into submission, he made them fall in love with the help of Ariana Grande. The Weeknd’s “Often” feels like one very far, undeniably R&B extreme, while “Love Me Harder” is its pop polar opposite. The Weeknd’s voice still holds true to his R&B roots but the positive theme of love over sex is pure pop.
Finally on “Can’t Feel My Face,” The Weeknd reaches the sweet compromise of these extremes. It’s vocally appealing with the correct mix of sounds, and contains lyrics that fit both his usual style and his attempts for progression as an artist. Drug-themed, but with dance vibes, the song is a huge success.
After the year long lead-up, The Weeknd’s latest album Beauty Behind the Madness was released this past Friday and has reached a larger audience than his last effort from a year ago. The album is a tribute to The Weeknd’s past and future. It’s dark with themes of casual sex and mistrust. The cynical, loveless, fucking-to-fill-the-void aesthetic is hard not to relate to by those who are still in the game.
It’s a slow album, but still highly provocative and guaranteed to be thrown on to one’s sex playlist. There is a song for everything to do with sex. From driving to a partner’s home to foreplay to fucking multiple times to possible post-sex cuddling (if that’s your style) or dealing with whatever emotional conflict that’s within you, the album is your background music – if not your anthems The Weeknd lives by verbal seduction and wants to make sure you do too.
The Weeknd did well in his usual niche in terms of vocals: heavy bass and unbarred, sexually-themed lyrics. With his new credit in the pop world, he was able to sing with Ed Sheeran on “Dark Times.” It showcases the pop singer’s ability to sing about heartbreaking ends to love stories and describing a dark version of one’s self-awareness and a girl pushing both singers slowly to darker times. It’s dirty in the rawness and honesty.
The Weeknd moves on to sing with pop/indie/alternative singer Lana Del Rey in “Prisoner.” It is melancholy and beautiful, with Del Rey’s normal sound fitting perfectly with what The Weeknd was going for. Del Rey explores what her place in Hollywood is anymore – a possible overstay – and its affect on her soul. The Weeknd croons about being a “prisoner of your love.” It is dreamy, almost a drug induced haze of a piece.
Beauty Behind the Madness also adds new sounds to the usual Weeknd repertoire with more electric guitar that is a slight reminder of something Yeezus did before (he produced the album), some electronic, almost Daft Punk-esque vibes and 80’s rock style.
The Weeknd is pushing to touch a larger audience and show love to his hardcore fans. Even if it isn’t your usual MO, there is value for everyone willing to take a chance on one of the artists touching on sex and heartache in the proper manner.