Why I Love The Weeknd
Years ago I was a low down, pitiful sort. I had no love in my heart and couldn't dance for shit. Then I found R&B. Now I am a full human who enjoys all the benefits that entails. The Weeknd is my favourite person in R&B. He is the new Michael. The new Prince. The new R. Kelly. When I saw The Weeknd in 2013, it was like seeing Michael Jackson as a young man. When he asked the audience if he could "come down there and get sexy with you" I screamed as loud as any woman. The Weeknd took a largely stagnant genre and revitalized it into something relevant and inspiring. He created a myth around himself that is as powerful as the greats before him.
Abel is just as adept at melding astonishing beauty with the dark things in life, as Prince was before him. Sex is not just a thing, it is something that alters and transforms. It is where the true things in life occur. This is the new Camille. This is The Black Album turned into a life long career. Yes, you can love me but it will be scary as all hell. Still, The Weeknd is not quite a villain. He is someone who is dulled by life, emotions torn up by a society which has no love in its heart. He is a victim as much as the people who fall in love with him. A parallel can easily be drawn between The Weeknd's lack of feeling and the path of R&B post Usher's Confessions. Auto-tune replaces feeling. Hideous cross-over dance tracks replaces solid R&B tropes.
The Weeknd is the saviour of R&B. More than The Dream, more than Frank Ocean, more than Miguel. He is the single, most interesting sort to put his name to the genre in at least a couple of decades. In years to come, he will be appreciated as such. Let's get specific. Take a listen to The Morning and hear the melancholy beauty in every one of his songs.
"Better slow down, she'll feel it in the morning
Ain't the kind of girl you'll be seeing in the morning
Too damn raw ain't no nigga worth her holding
Ain't no nigga that she holding man her love is too damn foreign
Look at all that money, the money is the motive
All that money, the money she be folding
Girl put in work, girl girl put in work
Girl put in work, girl girl put in work"
You're down now, you may be down again but don't lose heart. Keep your eye on what you deserve. Put in the work. The Weeknd is a tragic figure. He is, and I believe I am the first to say this, a purveyor of Noir R&B. It's down, down, down. It's addictions that take over your life. It's soul crushing depression. It's sex without love. That voice cuts through the bullshit and hits you right in your feelings. It takes you higher than you've ever been before. A perfect, holy voice on the alter of sex.
Kiss Land is his best work. A staggering achievement in atmosphere, in gorgeous melody, in dark as fuck lyrics. There is epic perversion on this album. Sucking cock with a grill. Knocking teeth out. I got that pussy in control. The title track is an epic deviant classic. Take a trip. As Paul Simon might have said "I'm going to Kiss Land." There is also pure joy to be found. This the shit that I live for with the people I die for, this is shit you can't fake dog, this is shit you need God for. This is not to say though that his more recent work has been lacking. From Beauty Behind the Madness to Starboy, Abel Tesfaye shows an uncanny ability to alter his approach in a way that pleases new fans and old.
My mother may not admit it, but she loves Starboy. She listened to that song on repeat for hours. We got songs for days, man. *Prince*. Daft Punk and The Weeknd is as perfect a pairing as can be imagined. The title track from the album of the same name, is an intergalactic, planetary trip. Main main outta your league, side side outta your league. Dance. Defiant, to the point, and soaked with charisma. To be with this man would make your life. Marvin Gaye has nothing on him!
The Weeknd's last two albums are particularly important for how they have embraced the classic R&B tradition of the slow jam. Before, The Weeknd felt the need to be dark and grimy on every track. Not so on his last two albums. Take a listen to the gorgeous As I Am and hear a sensitive soul looking for love. Same goes for the sublime True Colors, which has I believe the best vocal sample since The Party & The After Party. Girl come show me your true colors, paint me a picture with your true colors. The slow jam is an integral part of R&B. The reasons should be obvious but let me spell them out all the same. Sex, in some pairings, actually creates new human beings. It is an incredible thing but it's true. The slow jam is Holy Music. It is. It's not dirty, it's honest. It's not low down, it's on top. Prince did it. Marvin Gaye did it. Kells did it. When The Weeknd lays down a soulful track for the slow jam crowd, he creates more humans. This is a special, sacred thing.
To break through to the mainstream, for an R&B guy, is an impressive feat. It is particularly so for The Weeknd. His lyrics are most definitely not politically correct. They are not sensitive of concerns from either side of the political divide. He is the black man that conservative mothers are afraid of their daughter getting with. He is also the black man who can get with both the mother and the daughter, regardless of their affiliation. His lyrics and melodies and production are the audio equivalent of watching The Long Goodbye. Low low, desperate, savage, perfect. Killing someone you love. Killing them with words. The Man in the Long Black Coat. That's Abel. He's killed himself twice on film. He deserved it too.
Let's get down to it. Let's discuss specifics. Here are some of my favourite songs: The Party & The After Party, Tell Your Friends, The Town, Crew Love.
The Party & The After Party is everywhere you ever wanted to be! Take a savage good sample from Beach House's Master of None and transform it into an anthem for every head soaked, staggering drunk, sick in the sink beauty in high heels. Girl I got your bag, I got it all, hold your drink baby don't you fall. YOU ALWAYS COME TO THE PARTIES. That moment between the stumble and the fall. Six inch heels. When it gets to the bottom, there is savage violence. Hideous creatures who punish any sexual infraction. I think I'm fucking gone. Rolling on this floor. Messing up your carpet, I'll get on it after four. Monsters. Twisted love. True love driven to madness. What the fuck these bitches on? They want what I'm sitting on. They don't want my love, they just want my potential. All these girls trying to tell me she got no love. All these girls never, ever got a blow job.
Tell Your Friends is a what's my name job. Late to the party? Yes, but all the better for it. I don't think Abel really knew who he was before. He was a shadow. Elusive bastard who kept fucking my girlfriend. Now he's a full person.
"We are not the same I am too reckless
I'm not tryna go in that direction
These niggas they been doing too much flexing
But they about to follow my intention
And I ain't got no patience, no more testing
I do shit how I want, don't need no blessing
XO niggas, ain't nothing to mess with
Nobody stopping us, from what we destined."
XO for life. Go tell your friends about it. Go tell your friends about it.
I'm the nigga with the hair. Singing bout poppin pills, fucking bitches, living life, so trill. Got the car, got the hair, got the talent. That's enough. XO for life.
My cousin said I made it big and it's unusual. She tried to take a selfie at my grandma's funeral. Used to roam on Queen, now I sing Queen St. anthems. Used to hate attention, now I pull up in that wagon. And I was broken, I was broken I was so broke. I used to roam around the town when I was homeless. Me and Lamar would rob a nigger for his Jordans and flip it just to get these hos another nose fix. Now we get faded when we want girl, we got choices. Lay them on the fucking table, we got choices. And if they wanna fuck my niggers they got choices. They told me not to fall in love, that shit is pointless. That shit is pointless. They told me not to fall in love, that shit is pointless.
This verse is, all things considered, an astonishing achievement in R&B. It takes the pure emotional sincerity, the earnestness of a classic Michael Jackson song and transfuses it with a desperate, savage need for love. It has edges all over. It owes a debt to what has come before, but it also leaves its mark indelibly and forever on those songs which it took from. If Michael was alive he would have called up Abel right there and then and said "How on earth did you do that?" I was broken, I was broken, I was so broke. I am empty. I am nothing. There is no love left in me. In a Lonely Place. In a rotten, low down place. In a nothing ever gets better place. And then, HOPE. Something arrives just on time.
You did many things, that I liked, that I liked. The best song on Kiss Land. Swirling around your ears and delivering with on fucking point vocals. When it kicks in, it brings a whole heft of feeling with it. But I remember on the bathroom floor 'fore I went on tour. Like you said we couldn't do it again. Cause you had a thing with some other man. You said it was love, and you said you were lost. Then you wished me good luck to find somebody to love, but now I heard that you're single and I'll give you something to live for. Yes I will. Back to the start. Back to it. Somewhere beyond all the bullshit there is love. Don't tell me there was no feeling in that. It meant something to me. It meant something to you.
Crew Love is the C4 blowing up. The best Drake verse ever. Smoke your weed under star projectors,
I guess we’ll never know what Harvard gets us. But seeing my family have it all, took the place of that desire for diplomas on the wall. And really, I think I like who I’m becoming. There’s times where I might do it just to do it like it’s nothing. There’s times when I might blow like fifty k on a vacation for all my soldiers just to see the looks on all they faces. All it took was patience. I got a lot of friends to come up off the strip for me. The same ones that’ll come up off the hip for me. The realest niggers say "your lyrics do shit for me". I told my story, it made history. Tell em I'ma need reservations for twenty. I never really been one for the preservation of money nah. Much rather spend it all while I’m breathing. That OVO and XO is everything you believe in I know.
Those who doubt Drake, doubt one of the best to ever do it. This is not just smart, it is full of love. It is a joyous call to everything good in the universe. There is nothing rotten or nasty about it. It's not making bucks off of at risk minorities. It lifts you up and takes you where you need to be. I asked for a DJ to play Crew Love once and he turned me down. He said people wouldn't know it. Well they do. And they should. It is dope as all fuck. I want to be in that crew. I think everybody does.
Oooh... oooooh... listen. Listen. Yeah. Listen. Oooh. Take your nose off my keyboard, what you bothering me for? There's a room full of niggers. What you following me for? You know my whole crew blowing like a C4. They loving the crew. They loving the crew.
They loving the crew.
The Weeknd is to me, the best person working in R&B today. He has more talent, more courage and more musical acumen than a dozen of his peers. Forget Frank Ocean. Forget Miguel. THIS IS THE GUY. Let's close with I Feel It Coming. This song expresses in just under five minutes why The Weeknd is the best thing going. Remember Michael's love for life? Remember Prince's dirty liberation? Remember R. Kelly's adoration of the pussy? That's here. All the way here. This is the music to make love to. This is the best thing going today. WOOOO!