The Weeknd | House of Balloons
One of my gripes with contemporary rock and roll is that it’s gotten too safe. Rock songs are more often about being sad and remembering-when, less about the stuff that made it edgy in the first place. Enigmatic Montrealian, Abel Tesfaye, has poured enough dirty, sinful rock and roll into his mixtape, “House of Balloons” than were in all the liner notes of every metal album that came out last year. And the dude is a Canadian R&B singer. Who’s apparently nice!
Building on Beach House, Siouxsie and the Banshees, etc., tracks by pouring glacial amounts of reverb into them and punctuating them with slow jams beats from an 808, The Weeknd has created dreary, dark, and despondent songs, are juxtaposed against his R&B falsetto. The songs are focused on four main things: drug abuse, strippers, doing it; and the remorse therefrom. I’m by no means endorsing these things, but the allure is he’s going where one shouldn’t go. “You bring the drugs, baby, I can bring my pain.” The inherent vocal swagger of Tesfaye is belied by what are actually sad, remorseful lyrics. “Just say that you love me, only for tonight, even though you don’t love me.”
The buzz engine has already been running in fifth gear after The Weeknd. Pitchfork is all up in The Weeknd’s guts, fellow Canadian, Drake, has been pimping the mixtape out, and both Twitter and Tumblr have been screaming about this album. (His Tumblr is actually really bitchin, you should follow it.) At the end of the day, it’s well earned notereity because what The Weeknd is inadvertently (or advertently) doing is re-legitimizing and overly saccharine, constantly xeroxed, and compositionally paltry R&B genre. Dude is about to blow up big, so dig in while you can.