By Armand Manoukian
He’s had a #1 album, three #1 mixtapes, and an iconic hairstyle. He is Abel Tesfaye. He is The Weeknd. Five years ago, the world first heard his dark, R&B style and his soulful voice. On August 28th, Abel Tesfaye released his second studio album under the stage name, The Weeknd. “The Beauty Behind the Madness” gives homage to a pop, Michael Jackson-esque style. The first two hits off the album, “The Hills” and “I Can’t Feel My Face”, became pop sensations within days of their respective releases, but also received a fair bit of criticism. Faithful Weeknd fans, who were used to his murky, euphotic style, were taken by surprise. His debut mixtapes, together known as “The Trilogy”, and his first full studio album, “Kiss Land”, were aesthetically soothing because they were unlike anything else in the music industry. He began at a time when other somber singers were hitting it off as well, such as Frank Ocean and Miguel. However, neither of them have ascended as high as the Weeknd has in the past years. Now, the Weeknd holds the new-generation R&B mantle, and his new album will shape the future of the genre.
To say the least, a lot of hype and excitement surrounded the release of this album. However, his grand release was overshadowed by the fact that the album was leaked a week before, on August 23rd. Millions of people found a download or a stream and dedicated themselves to listening to the album the whole way through. The fear that his music was going to take a turn to pop became a reality. Songs like “Tell Your Friends” and the earlier released “Can’t Feel My Face” are more upbeat than his usual sound. Other songs like “Losers” and “Real Life” do not channel his original style, but they are getting great feedback and have become two direct hits off the album. However, the old Weeknd isn’t completely gone. “Prisoners”, featuring Lana Del Rey, keeps in tune with his usual self. Another great feature on the album was Ed Sheeran’s part on “Dark Times” was hauntingly beautiful, and the combination of their voices had fans wondering why they haven’t heard a collaboration between the two. The already-famous Earned It also channels 2013 “Kiss Land” vibes. It must be said, however, that the vintage Weeknd people were looking forward to is most present in the song “Acquainted”. His extended high notes, murky style, and dark subject matter all work in harmony in that song. All of this being said, “The Beauty Behind the Madness” is by no means a bad album. It is different from his old work, but that does not make it worse. Of course, that does not make it better either. This album pushed the Weeknd into pop stardom, but is that necessarily a good thing?
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