Call it the Joylessness of Sex. Toronto-based crooner Abel Tesfay, a.k.a. the Weeknd, has emerged as one of 2011's breakout stars by giving a bleak, arty spin to Love Man soul. On this mixtape, the music is noirish and dour: beats that blip, click and boom; shuddering, undulating synths; falsetto vocals that drift over spooky minor chords.
Review Summary: Thursday may not be immediately enjoyable. It lacks the memorable hooks and immediate production of its predecessor. And it's a better album for it.Even though House of Balloons and Thursday, the Weeknd's two free albums– I'm hesitant to call these mixtapes– are quite different topically and sonically, they begin similarly. Abel Tesfaye, 21-year-old vocalist and pure hedonist, is on the prowl.
Earlier this month, the two self-proclaimed "kings" of hip-hop released a joint album. Watch The Throne received a lot of press, a lot of praise, and a lot of plays. But after awhile, we all started to argue that, perhaps, Watch The Throne wasn't as great as we all had originally thought. Maybe those beats are actually too overproduced.
Thursday, The Weeknd’s follow-up and sequel to his ridiculously good House of Balloons, begins desperately. He was left empty and shallow on his previous album, and his characters confidence has been shattered. Opener Lonely Star sounds like a pathetic plea for the girl of his affections on that particular evening to sleep with him, offering her fame and jewels.
I've been trying very hard to not get my hopes up too high about the Weeknd. After those first YouTube videos, how could the debut album live up to the hype? House Of Balloons ended up effortlessly meeting our high expectations. But there was no way the mysterious Toronto stoner/R&B sensation could match the anticipation for his first live show, right? Except he turned in a debut gig that was one of the craziest ever.
Even though I live in North Carolina and would have been in no position, financially speaking, to shell out the $300 that scalpers were asking for tickets to the Weeknd’s first show, a gig at Toronto’s Mod Club that sold out in 90 minutes, I still got to be a part of the R&B singer’s concert debut. It hadn’t been 24 hours since Abel Tesfaye wrapped up his encore before his entire set was already up on YouTube. In a brilliant bit of reverse psychology, the show’s promoters told fans that recording was forbidden while making no attempt to confiscate cameras and phones, thereby guaranteeing that every fan would scramble to shoot and share their “exclusive” footage.
The Weeknd's debut album/mixtape House of Balloons took the over-the-top literalism of singers like The-Dream and R. Kelly to a grittier and even more explicit world of sex, drugs, violence and, above all, self-pity. There was a noir-ish coat of regret and withdrawal comparable to fellow Torontonian Drake (who makes an appearance here on "The Zone").
It sounds a bit ridiculous to say that the Weeknd avoid the sophomore slump with Thursday, given that the Toronto crew's first release arrived just five months ago. But not many artists, especially in the Internet era, show up with such a well-developed aesthetic (a very foggy, of-the-moment variation on mainstream radio's slow jams) and something as self-assured as the House of Balloons mixtape. And those that do probably don't have a Drake co-sign and such a carefully managed cloak of anonymity.
The Weeknd plays a bit like a Bret Easton Ellis novel reads, giving off a feeling that’s somewhere between hopelessness and apathy. Dealing with essentially the same ideas that appeared on their previous album (drug-abuse, jarring lust, lack of conscience, etc. ), Thursday almost dares your dark side to indulge in its beautiful bleakness in an “I can’t believe you’re enjoying this, you twisted bastard” sort of way.
What do you know about Abel Tesfaye? Not much, right? Well, yeah: that’s sorta the point. If you read the press on The Weeknd — and there has been plenty of ink spilled regarding the nascent R&B star — you’ve doubtless seen the man and his project described as shrouded, cloaked, or otherwise metaphorically encompassed in mystery. All we really know, aside from his affiliation with Drake and a Tumblr full of remixes and heavily stylized photography, is that we aren’t supposed to know anything about The Weeknd.
File The Weeknd beside Frank Ocean as an RnB star set to climb to new heights in 2012. Mike Diver 2011 Earlier this year, Canadian singer The Weeknd (aka Abel Tesfay) became a ‘net sensation when his House of Balloons mixtape attracted the support of rapper Drake and highly positive reviews across the music press – stateside site Pitchfork compared its spectral qualities to The xx’s Mercury-winning debut. At the time of writing, it’s on the shortlist for the Polaris Prize, essentially the Canadian Mercury Prize.