Why I Love King of the Fall and Tell Your Friends

"I just passed that "nigga fell off" stage
Just sold out the O2 at my own pace
I can say that I’m attached to nobody
I've been getting paper while these niggas tryna stop me
Shout my nigga Doc, that’s a mentor
Had some bad business, nothing personal
But now the word out that we back
On some young Quincy Jones, dark skin Michael Jackson
And these the motherfuckers that they packaged
Their new shit all be sounding like my past shit
Bring your girl to my show, give her floor seats
Then she go downtown like she owe me
Mix it up, pour it up, take it down slow
This is my sound, nigga, fuck your sound
Did it from the ground, ask around, bitch
When I touch down, I'ma shake shit up
Fuck a new man, I'ma break it up
He can come back when I go on the road
But that pussy mine for the next three months
’Cause the kid back, kid back, kid back
Cop ten whips for my niggas when we land
Queen Street nigga making money overseas
Had a few more debts, I'ma pay it all in cash
Shout out XO, shout out to the boy
Broke bread on tour, man, it’s all love now
Shout my nigga Stix, doing good in these streets
Bet he popping more bottles than us right now
Reason why they stressing, city never sunny
When the kid come through with more niggas than Apollo
But ain’t shit funny, can’t nobody stop me
All my whores are trained, I make all of them swallow.
 All of dem swallow.
All of dem swallow.
I make all of dem swallow."

King of the Fall was released in 2014, in the middle of a dry period for The Weeknd. Along with Often and the Drunk In Love Remix, it was the only new music he released that year. I love this song for a few reasons, which I will spell out here. The first is the production. Hard as fuck, it attacks the listener with a dizzying array of sounds and lyrics that are some of the most personal and referential of Abel's career. Then you have the pure filth that are the last few lines of the song. When The Weeknd gets sexual, he goes all the way. R. Kelly was obviously a huge influence on The Weeknd's subject matter, along with Prince's darker sexual material (I'm thinking especially Come) and he is able to pull it off just like his musical heroes. This is a hard fucking song for fucking.

Sex music gets a bad rap and is often considered low art, if it's considered art at all but there is a lot to be said for music that makes you want to get personal with another human being. The Weeknd is the most gifted producer of sex music of his generation. He can get romantic, and he can get sick as all hell. King of the Fall is the latter. "I make my own luck, I make that pussy talk on call to the fall, he can like it or not." Going to this dark place is something that both Kells and Prince would relate to. Through expressing it in his music, The Weeknd rids his body and mind of all of the rotten shit that gets clogged up. As with Prince though, I imagine he has at one time or another acted on these impulses. His persona as the dark prince of R&B is cemented on this song.

King of the Fall is defiant music. It is a here I am and come at me brother music. It is late night, early morning, the party's not over yet music. When he breaks it down, "I just passed that nigga fell off stage..." I lose it, every single time. And the build back up, XOXOXO, Mix it up, pour it up, take it down slow, this my sound, nigga fuck your sound, did it from the ground ask around... He smashes it and leaves it lying. It's battle music. It's let's throw down music. It is a song that expresses, head up, back straight, that this man has dignity and skill for days. He will not be put down by those who think they are above him.

As mentioned above, this song is among the most referential of Abel's career. It contains several call outs to The Weeknd's peers and collaborators, including a nod to producer Doc McKinney - who Abel sees as the Quincy Jones to his Michael Jackson - and a conciliatory shout out to his peer and supreme talent, Drake. It is interesting that he uses a song that is essentially a "What's my name?" job to repair fractured relationships. While the specific shout outs are friendly, there is a threat implied by the line "If you ain't with me motherfucker you against me, if you ain't complementing nigga, you offending." Yes, I want to get along with you, but just remember how much power and skill I have on the mic. It has a lot in common in this respect with the best song from 2015's Beauty Behind the Madness, Tell Your Friends. Just in case you didn't know, this is who I am and I'm a pretty, pretty, pretty big deal. I love the references to Queen St. in The Weeknd's music and this is maybe my favourite mention, along with a similar one in Tell Your Friends (Used to roam on Queen, now I sing Queen St. anthems.) It is also highly prudent to check out the brilliant video which is full of colour and delicious flavour.

Tell Your Friends is probably the best "What's my name?" song in history. It is immensely moving and full of beauty, as well as hilarious braggadocio. "I'm that nigga with the hair singing bout popping pills, fucking bitches, living life so trill." It all builds up to a verse that puts in a short amount of time why it is that The Weeknd is so damn good at what he does. The verse that goes "My cousin said I made it big and it's unusual..." and peaks with "And I was broken, I was broken, I was so broke..." That vocal, the backing, the unimaginable loneliness and isolation pushed through those words. It is on a Human Nature by Michael Jackson level of feeling. It is just perfect. Every time I feel low, I remember this line and the contrast between it and the lines detailing great success with desperation and hopelessness. Things can get better. Go tell your friends about it. I'm here now, make way for the King.

The way Tell Your Friends combines such a full on attack song with moments that express so expertly the low, vulnerable moments is what makes it such a classic. The Weeknd, in his vocal performances has become immensely capable of doing this on the regular. Tell Your Friends shows him at the height of his powers. "Last year I did all the politicking, this year I'ma focus on the vision." The vision is one that puts R&B in its rightful place at the top of the artistic pile. R&B that can just as easily touch your heart as well as electrifying your physical impulses. This is the new R&B that The-Dream laid the groundwork for, and that which Abel, Frank Ocean and Miguel perfected. Oh and that woooooo at the end of the song? Shivers. FUCKING SHIVERS. If there is a ten second clip to express why The Weeknd is the best person making music today, it should be this one. Michael would be proud.  

As with King of the Fall, the video for Tell Your Friends is really something. It is the first of two times, that The Weeknd kills himself on screen. Here he buries his old self alive, which culminates with the terrific visual of Abel singing the song with a plastic bag over his head. The story is so Noir. Get to a desert, kill yourself, kill the mysterious woman/man who is pursuing you. All while the sounds of the song cause you to dance and let your inhibitions go. This is something that Jim Thompson could have written, so Noir as it is.

Tell Your Friends was co-produced by Kanye West, and it is entirely appropriate to give Kanye some respect in preparation for a full on Why I Love Kanye article. Kanye West is the most influential and important producer of his generation, hands down, no real competition. He took Rap and made it grow up. Out went the stupidity, homophobia and misogyny and in came Rap with real heart, real insight and real musical acumen. That he had a hand in Tell Your Friends is not surprising as it features many of his signature touches, especially his ability to combine a line that will make you cry, with one that will push the boundaries of good taste a few moments later.

King of the Fall and Tell Your Friends are brothers in song. They both express an indomitable spirit, as well as a person who is more than capable of admitting his weaknesses and asking for forgiveness. This is incredibly unusual for "What's My Name?" songs, which are almost always just about full on, shameless assertions of the singer's greatness. Here The Weeknd takes the conventions and twists them inside out, and at once reaches out for his brother and sisters' hand, as well as preparing a slap in case its needed. Both go hard as fuck but are equally gifted in the gentle moments. Both have excellent visuals that help to express the unique and appealing character of the songs. If you want to have a good time, where you can say FUCK YES more than once, check out these songs.


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