The Weeknd: Thursday
For my money – of which this wonderful artist requires none – this is the best of the 2011 trilogy of albums launched upon us from The Weeknd. While the first album was breakthrough, and I really did get the whole fear factor etc, I found it so ‘bad’ it got a little preachy for me. I mean the guy was SO sinister it could only have come from the heart of a religious person.
Thursday is another step into the pool he created with the first album, but I think with more sophistication. He’s braver here. He’s already crushed us with those brilliant backhanded slap lyrics from album one, but this time he’s willing to experiment more with the musical aspects of his genre. Songs like Life of the Party have a subtle and sarcastic edge that shows a lot more emotional complication than House of Balloons.
Track one appears to be a kind of introduction to the themes of the rest of the album. This woman is more active than the women in House of Balloons who were embarrassingly passive. This is still about loneliness and the echo effect on the female vocals emphasizes this giving the impression of people alone at a party. Tesfaye tells us she’s his Thursday girl. She’s to abandon her friends, but she’s shallow – as shallow as he is. In many ways they are a good match.
Life of the Party
Lonely Star funeral marches directly into Life of the Party, one of my favourite tracks on the album. This is more interesting for me because of the sarcasm laced through the lyrics. Sure, she’s the life of the party because she’s full of drugs etc, but the darkness beneath the song doesn’t simply come from the hard-edged lifestyle. We’re all a little more grown up now. the women are contributors, not victims. That hate is bleeding through in this song, where previously everything Tesfaye gave us made him look predatorial. Now he’s meeting his match – we’re all as fucked up as each other here. I prefer this kind of darkness to the preachy edge we’ve had from him previously. this taps into something (for me) much darker – the hatred we can feel for other human beings. Its more conscious here. he’s starting to deal with it. Lets party.
Here Tesfaye makes efforts to reclaim his earlier position. He wants to know why she’s calling on any other day than Thursday – cause that’s her day. This song segues nicely from the previous in that he’s pushing her away again, after she gained some territory in the last track – if what these lovers share can be called territory in any way. This song differs from the first album (although lyrically its similar) because here he’s not able to get into the sinister place of control. We get the feeling she’s going to call on any day she damn well pleases and he knows this. There’s resignation here. Musically this isn’t such an interesting track as the previous two, but the wistful longing for his own power is the point here, and that comes through nicely.
Thursday relies less on the ‘pow’ factor of the lyrics and infuses the music more with the message. This track is a perfect example, and another of my favs from the album. The lyrical first part – familiar territory, he’s using a woman to beat his loneliness against – but the entry of Drake sets the edge on the track so that it moves out of that previously well-worn place. Drakes lyric is stunning – the performance is brilliant. It loses the predatorial nature of the lyric alone in his rhythmic vocal sway. This is poetry (apologies if that offends anyone cool) and its delivered like spoke word performance. I loved the way the two vocals opposed and complimented each other. This track is a reminder that The Weeknd isn’t just about bad ass lyricsm. Its got a musical talent that comes through in Thursday.
The Birds part 1
Thursday has been described as more commercially accessible than House of balloons, but I disagree with that assessment and this track emphasises why that is. Lyrically, almost everything hinged on being able to understand the vocals in the first album. It was an album to shock and ride the waves of the shock. We were introduced to a fine voice, scary vocals and a new direction for R &B. In this album he’s pushing it further into the outer limits. The birds part one exhibits some fear that was completely missing from the first album – but we knew to be there. It bleeds into the second half of the song…
The Birds part 2
This is another favourite track on this album – probably my favourite. The lyrics are deeper here, more interesting. He’s falling apart and it’s not quite clear if he is even aware of it. The vocals are strained and echoed to cite exhaustion and loneliness – despite the backing behind him. His a capella reach is a strain (not sounds strained – he’s reaching) and the distorted female lyric is back. Shes taunting him here. She’s just a girl. He’s grappling with feelings of guilt, but this is a guilt that has visited him in the face of his own demise. The music is infused with his emotional breakdown and the performance is stunning. The screech of the birds – sandpaper pain – at the end is inspired. Very Hitchcock in its drama.
He’s escaping it here – running from the consequences of the last track. He’s going down well-worn paths that aren’t quite making it for him this time round – this time he deserves an oscar for the performance he’s giving. he’s crossed over and even the light finger-clicking trickle of the drug-fucked track ‘gone’ cant bring him back. He’s gone. Gone to a new place that the previous life can’t rescue him from any longer. Part way through the track, the thumping drum beat moves in to march him on. The minimalist nature of the song gives it the stark prison sentence of a feel. he’s not in control anymore.
We’re in the transition phase here. the fun’s gone and now its life on the streets, a slight and acoustic feel to a breathy lyric that sounds more ballad like than any of his previous songs. He wants love now, stripped back, raw, alone. he knows he wants love, but he’s not sure he wants life just yet. This unplugged feel gives rise to his anticipated fall during gone. He’s never recovered from the drama of The Birds. It seems here, despite his cry that he’s got her, she’s finally got him.
Heaven or LAs Vegas
This ambiguous end to the album leaves us not knowing where he went or what became of him. Is he dead? Maybe. has he left the streets and moved in with his girl? Maybe. This final track is set back from the rest of the album – its at a distance now. he’s sublimated. The cockiness is gone. the darkness remains but we have a slight edge of psych here implying some other kind of world that may not be drug induced. That marching drum is back again, to move him forward as if he’s being pushed. he’s been rewarded with his girl – but is she really a reward? is he in heaven or hell? I guess the answer to that lies in your own experience of this fine album.
See my review for House of Balloons here.
See my review for Echoes of Silence here.