Abel Tesfaye, better known by his stage name, The Weeknd, was born February 16th in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada. Now 25 years old, the young R&B sensation aims to further solidify his pivotal role in our modern music industry after anonymously uploading music to YouTube only five years ago. With three mixtapes ultimately re-released as The Trilogy, and his debut album KissLand under his already extraordinarily successful belt, his new and long awaited album, Beauty Behind The Madness, is the most crucial step he will ever take in the progression of his blossoming career. Through his own label XO, and Republic Records, Beauty Behind the Madness was released on August 28th despite an album leak several days before. As a thick air of mystery still surrounds what many believe to be the next voice of our generation, The Weeknd gracefully steps into the spotlight so that fans can finally see the true beauty behind the madness we’ve grown to know and love.
For years now, fans have fallen in love with the madness. The dark tales of drug use, shyness, women, and alienated fame all charged by a bitter-sweet melancholic angst. Whether through his own erratic yet addictive sounding production, or through hooks and choruses featured on some of hip-hop’s most popular albums and singles, The Weeknd has managed to carve out a specific and pivotal role in Canadian and International music. In an abstract way, The Weeknd is almost like an extremely talented graffiti street artist who’s been capturing the attention of everyone with mysterious, erratic, yet polarizing and gifted works of art. However, with Beauty Behind The Madness, it’s almost like someone has noticed The Weeknd’s potential, and taken all of his new art and put it on display in a proper gallery, with all the lights, structure, and professionalism you just wouldn’t find in the uncharted streets and back alleys of modern R&B. This album is noticeably less chaotic, more cohesive, and structured than previous his albums and mixtapes. In addition, Beauty Behind The Madness is not quite as aggressive and dark as you would expect, yet drug use, alienated fame and women are still the foundation of the project. After all, that’s just who The Weeknd is.
In terms of sound and theme, Beauty Behind The Madness can be best described as embodying a sense of mischievous-hopefulness and desire, which can be quite endearing. While the album does tend to come off as uplifting and mischievous, the instrumentals and sounds used tend to be extremely classy and smooth. This contrast between class and mischievousness is one of the albums most attractive components and a big reason why his style resonates so well with the youth of our generation. Often The Weeknd gives us a heavenly voice veiled in hellish connotations, providing the originality needed to separate himself from similar artists. While this technique is uniform across the album, Beauty Behind the Madness surprisingly offers an impressive amount of variety. With a little something for everyone, The Weeknd looks to have successfully extended his reach to a much broader audience.
On the production side of things, the quality of the album is sublime. Crisp, clear and mixed to perfection, Beauty Behind The Madness is a real treat and sure to be one the best sounding albums you’ll hear in 2015. While it goes without saying the almost two year wait was well worth it, it can be slightly off putting if you are a fan who truly appreciates The Weeknds ability to pull your heartstrings as the album lacks a little in both bark and bite. However, the effort in the creation process is undeniable and instantly recognizable. In the album credits, The Weeknd is listed on every song, having wrote most of the album himself and that’s something that shouldn’t go unappreciated. With so many modern artists opting for large amounts of help when creating their music, it’s refreshing and admirable that The Weeknd has taken the road less traveled. Rumour has it he wrote one of the albums songs while sitting in Marilyn Monroes bedroom, and while this may not seem like a significant factor, it’s a testament to some of the creativity, thought and inspiration that went into Beauty Behind The Madness.
Sometimes, the features on an album can be a clear indication of what the album is supposed to accomplish and Beauty Behind The Madness is no exception. In recent years, The Weeknd has been no stranger to Hip-Hop features and owes much of his initial exposure to fellow Canadian artist, Drake. Having worked with Drake and friends of Drake for many years, it’s slightly disappointing although not surprising there are no Hip-Hop affiliated features on this album. Instead, The Weeknd has tapped international superstars Lana Del Rey and Ed Sheeran for assistance. Now, while this may sound less than ideal and rather main-stream to some fans, in reality it’s truly the only option available if The Weeknd intends on breaking out from the limited and slightly confined spaces of dark-edgy Hip-Hop hooks and R&B. In fact, the features are very strong and excellently accomplish what they set out to, let the listener see The Weeknd in a new influential light. He’s no longer just that guy crying in the background of a Drake track that you keep trying to tell your friends about.
Upon listening to the album, you may notice that the only glimpse at The “old” Weeknd is on the single “The Hills”. This is by far the darkest song in the collection and should be the go to track for traditional fans. However, “Real Life”, “Losers”, & “Tell Your Friends” with production from Kanye West, are without question the albums three most impressive and enjoyable tracks, capturing everything Beauty Behind The Madness has to offer. Considering “I Can’t Feel My Face” has become the unofficial song of the summer, receiving huge amounts of radio play over the last few months, it’s now clear this different, more uplifting approach, really was the correct step in evolving as an artist. “Earned It” also deserves praise for being utilized in a feature length film earlier this year, and even though the movie was terrible, the song is one of the smoothest on the album.
Much in the same way a teenager spends his college years experimenting and having a good time before putting on a tie and cleaning themselves up for an important job interview, The Weeknd has gone through a similar transformation. After learning and perfecting what makes him a pillar in R&B and international music altogether, young Abel Tesfaye has finally evolved into a legitimate vocal powerhouse capable of not only handling the pressure and spotlight of mega-fame, but talented enough to turn the heads of other world-wide superstars. Not since Michael Jackson has such a unique style and sound resonated so deeply with the youth of a generation. Beauty Behind The Madness is a masterpiece in many respects and could easily see more than one Grammy nod at this years awards. This album truly is the beauty behind the madness known only as The Weeknd.
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