I recently realized how much we at LxL almost entirely disregarded one of the coolest music acts of 2011, The Weeknd. We briefly discussed him in our Top Ten New Artist of 2011 list, but he otherwise went completely unmentioned on LxL, if I’m not mistaken. Not only is the sole member (Abel Tesfaye) an excellent producer, but the dude has the ambition and drive Muhammad Ali. In 2011 The Weeknd released not 1, not 2, but 3 full-length mixtapes. All of which were very well rounded and very highly praised. Incidentally, The Weeknd’s first album, House of Balloons did land at our 21st overall favorite album of 2011, but we only listed our top 20 on the website, so it didn’t receive adequate recognition.
I have been listening to these albums more and more recently, and upon every listen, I discover another little element of genius tucked under some nook or cranny of a particular track or one of the albums. Abel’s cunning sense of music is a breath of fresh air, and could serve as a forefather to a new fusion of genre and sound between R&B/hip-hop.
The Weeknd pulled of something that I have not heard since the likes of Usher’s brilliant 1997 album My Way, great R&B. Most R&B in general is trash, but every once in a while, it’s good to dig through the garbage rather than just take it out. I’m glad I have kept digging through The Weeknd’s material, because it grows on me more and more everyday. The xx is the only other group in some time that has a comparable impact on my ears and in my heart. They are fairly comparable because they both have very deep R&B roots. But where The xx is more stripped down, The Weeknd burst through with a very full bodied sound while still being a calm, and cool, slow-driving force.
The mixtapes were released over the course of the year, all via The Weeknd’s website, and they were released free of charge. The first of the three was House of Balloons. The album was released in March, but admittedly, I hadn’t heard until it’s follow up, Thursday, was released in August. Getting both albums at once proved to be a burden. It was a bit overwhelming to try and take it all in at once. After settling with them, I really began to dig into House of Balloons. He had sampled Aaliyah and Siouxsie and the Banshees as well as two different sample of Beach House. This combined with Able’s deviously clever and super smooth beats/lyrics was a level of brilliance that is still seeping in with each listen. Even his aesthetic is brilliant. As pictured, the layout for each albums cover art is exactly the same. It’s smart because he now has a specific identity that is clean and consistent on top of already dominating.
By the time I really got around to soaking House of Balloons in, it was December and Echoes of Silence was released. It took a month for me to dive in, and after I did, it sparked motivation to go back and revisit Thursday. I feel noalw I have spent sufficient time with l three albums, and now I am realizing that he deserves much more credit and praise than I had initially thought. Echoes grabs you off the bat with an incredible remix of MJ’s “Dirty Diane”, and does not let you go or let you down for the next 8 tracks to come.
^Upon first listen, my reaction was much like this man’s … except I danced way more, and am much larger than he is.
Unless talking about Ryan Adams, Neil Young, or possibly Jack White, it is very rare you hear of an artist releasing such a copious amount of music in one year. What separates Abel from the rest even more so, is the fact that NONE of his music sucks. Everything he has released thus far is gold. His first full length LP is due out this year sometime, and it has now snuck its way into my own “most anticipated” list.
Technically this is not quite a specific album review. More or less this is me just saying, if you aren’t on this Weeknd wagon just yet, hop on now and support his phenomenal new brand of hip-hop R&B. In any case, I’m still going to rate the albums.
Aggregate Rating of All 3 Albums: 9/11
Can’t Miss: “House of Balloons” from House of Balloons, “What You Need” from House of Balloons, “The Birds Pt 1&2” from Thursday, and “DD” from Echoes of Silence
Can’t Hit: All tracks on all albums dominate to much to fall into this category.
Visit The Weeknd’s website and download his music from here for FREE.