The Weeknd: Echoes of Silence
This album is being touted as completing ‘The trilogy’ of one man outfit The Weeknd’s R & B contribution for 2011. It landed at the base of our chimney’s December 21 – and it turns out its settling in somewhere between ‘Baloons’ and ‘Thursday’.
Despite it being a break with popular opinion, I preferrred Thursday to House of Balloons. I found the overt darkness in Balloons intensly moralising. The first listen was exciting, the secopnd I started to ask some questions and by the third I felt certain I was being preached about the evils of the dark life by a young inexpereinced religious boy. Then bingo – turns out that is just who Tesfaye is. Thursday was braver. He stared to experiment with the style more and, while the lyrics were still dark, he allowed us a shift out of that-so-dark-you-need-the-light vein. It didn’t have as much of the easy-path ‘lets take drugs and hate women’ crap that is getting so pedestrian.
I rather like this third contribution – even if it is all getting a little sameish. Michael Jackson is manifested well in track one, and there is a little nod to Carly Simon and You’re so Vain in track two. One of the things I do like is the acknowledgements and The Weekn’ds interest in his own influences. That, along with the talent on display gives me an excited thrill about what will be in store when this young man gets some real life expereince. I enjoyed the multi-lingual depressions here (I’m a francophile but I happen to think the french adds depth to the style here) and I’m always up for decent vocal distortions.
Track One: Dirty Diana
Great Michael Jackson cover – even if I can never take a sexual MJ song seriously (that guy is SO a-sexual) – that really nails it for me in terms of an improvement on the original. This is down and dirty.
Track Two: Montreal
This is one of the stand-outs for me. For a start The lyrics and sound expereimentation work for me, but there is a desperation in the singing that is reflected in the lyrics – a far more honest representation of male longing. I enjoyed this track a lot. The lamentations of a weak woman – a woman who coukn’t stand up to teh challenges the thrashing angry young man displays. Tesfaye’s voice takes on a ‘witheld’ quality, restrained, as if he is swallowing the words almost, and the french sounds deeply romantic. The French is “chick habit, chick habit, One day it’s you that will leave.” This is at the heart of all the behaviours The Weekn’d so artistically exploits, the fear that the people closest (the ones the young men need) will leave. This song includes the bitter nod to Carly Simon “you probably think this song is about you.” there is the acknowledgement that we want those we love to suffer for hurst inflicted long before they arrived.
Track Three: Outside
Again, the lyrics here are more interesting, as is the reverb and the pacing. This is a dedication to wounded sex, but for me it’s one of Tesfaye’s hotter songs. I rarely find R&B sexy (maybe its a white girl thing) but this song was hot. That sex where you just want to pretend its all ok and there is nothing around you but happiness. That’s when sex is like a drug and can succesd in masking pain. the viocal gymnastics retaini masculinity (this for me is a regular problem with R&B).
Track Four: XO / The Host
This is a pretty pissed off track. This plays with what we all liked originally about The House of Balloons. We have those lyrics raping the protective layer off the sheen over the party play. The slide in recording, harsher background and faster pace give this a breathless feel – the still over “I love it when you’re eyes are red” – she’s running high again, ready to be filmed. For me we’re headed for moralising terriroty again, crying mothers, being filmed off your tits, out of control, can’t pay bills etc. It’s not quite as bad as House of Balloons was, and we have some interesting music going on, but it is starting to dip into ‘naughty-naughty- terriroy again. This is a little too long with the tacked on The Host in addition taking it over the seven min mark.
Track Five : Initiation
Interesting play here with vocalisations but for me this moves toward the silly side. Again we have these darker than dark lyrics giving us an impression we’ve seen over and over – even from The Weekn’d. Pandering to school boy ‘naughtiness’ in order to gain popularity works, so I guess he has to keep the interest alive, but experimental or subversive it aint.
Track Six: Same Old Song
A pretty ordinary track about recognition and revenge. There is a sadness deep down underneath these lyrics, but its busired pretty deep. Mostly theres just a pissed off dude that the chick is on her way back now – when he needed her eight months ago. Not too much happening muscially here, although the song still has that mellow / dark slipperness we’ve come t love from this artist.
Track Seven: The Fall
Another of my favourites and a standout track. I loved this. It is a brilliant and startling confession about who and what it is to be successful. Brilliant lines like:
“And the peak ain’t reached but the peek is all I feel
And it feels so good
It feels so good, good, good, good, good”
“I aint scared of the fall, I’ve felt the ground before.”
This is where the lyrics take a turn for the better and give us a real poets sense of the complications in success. Living with the frustration of knowing you haven’t reached your peak, but that your fall is likely before you reach it anyway. Not much is happening here musically that is any different, but those lyrics are very well done and make the song one of the best he’s come out with.
Track Eight: Next
Nice piano work here. Its a pleasant break when the last few songs have been musically repetitious. Vocally he’s more interesting here and then there is that lovely tinkling rich piano contribution – adding to a musical depth that is usually missing from the skating over thin ice sound of The Weekn’d. Similar to the above song this is a lamentation for the popularity thing – but its an acknowledgement that ‘you just want me cause im next’ aint gonna cut it. Its not as clever as the song before it, and this one DOES get a little preachy again, but its got some lovely sgtrong work toward the end as well as that piano, so musically its one of the more interesting songs on the album.
Track Nine: Echoes of Silence
we have a similar end to House of Balloons here. Another lyrically repentant song of sadness and emptiness around a thrill that can never be quite met. It’s a slower, gentler track – with that ’empty corridoor’ echo going on – the silence of lonliness. Not bad – but not the best track on off here.
See my review of Thursday here.