Friday, 6 May 2011

Thoughts on the Weeknd

My sometimes-publisher Polaroids of Androids have tasked me this week with writing up a review of The Weeknd's debut album. I'm treating this as a sort of dry-run, a place to bounce some ideas around, discover which direction I'm going to take. Maybe get some choice soundbytes like 'ominous pop' or 'urban nihilism' if I'm lucky.

Now, I've had little to no experience with what the kids are calling 'rhythm and blues'. The sickly smooth autotuned vocals, that mind-numbing drum machine and synth repetition, the overused clubbing vibe... I can't exactly pinpoint the exact root of my revulsion, but it's there, and it takes all my self control to prevent a 'nam flashback whenever chris brown or usher pops up on the radio. Seriously, I have to shut down my body by lowering my heart rate.

Enter the Weeknd. Listen to it. Seriously, listen to it right now: The whole thing, dammit.

Yeah, it's RnB. Yeah, it's got those vocals. Yeah, it's probably about sexin' up bitches and pluggin' niggas. But it's different, isn't it?

Siouxie and the banshees! Vocals coming from the bottom of a well. Echoes and distortion. Disconcerting loops. Sound effects like an 8-bit spaceship plummeting. A spectacular transition into nightmares.

Almost but not quite a concept album, the record gives a fragmented step by step account of an incredible night out - you've got the lines of coke in the penthouse, various parties and even more after-parties, and of course the hazy recollections in the morning. Popping drugs like bubble wrap. Sex like scratching an itch. The pursuit of pleasure above anything else. Nothing new, granted, but approached in an intelligent, self-aware way.

Essentially, it's a bridge between the underground and the mainstream. It sounds as appropriate in your headphones while submerged in your hipster quality isolation chamber as it does at your neighbour's B105 centered party playlist.

So on the whole, highly recommended. Plus their name is really fun to say. Has it opened my mind up to RnB? No, not even a little bit. More on this later.

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