In March 2011, Abel Tesfaye, known as The Weeknd, released a free 9-song album called House of Balloons. By August of the same year he had released the mixtape Thursday, and by December he had released a third mixtape, Echoes of Silence. Even though these were all mixtapes, and all released within the same year, they felt like albums. They sounded good and were cohesive, all three reeking of overindulgence and debauchery. And, at the ripe age of 21, Tesfaye impressed anyone who was paying attention with his efficiency. A lot of people will recognize The Weeknd for his appearance in Drake’s ‘Crew Love’, a song that stood out from Drake’s last album Take Care, consequently giving it, and The Weeknd, a lot of airtime. So if you haven’t payed The Weeknd any attention since loving the crew, now’s the time to start doing so. His latest album Trilogy is a collection of his newly remastered 3 mix-tapes, and 3 new songs.
So, introducing Trilogy: the story of sex, love, drugs, and betrayal. If it were a film it might be a doped-up film noir sans crime. It’s an entire world that The Weeknd is putting into his lyrics, dark beats, and haunting echoes. It’s the atmosphere that they create rather than a distinct narrative that reel you in. It’s distorted. It’s a bit menacing. It’s a bit woe-is-R’n’B. And usually autotone is used to enhance a bad voice, but The Weeknd is the greatest exception to this rule. In some instance, he uses it to simulate the mind-altering affects of the drugs he’s singing about. The best example of this is the song ‘Initiation’. I recall this as the first song I ever heard by The Weeknd in 2011 (accompanied by a NSFW music video). This was my thought process:
1. This song is ominous
2. This song is sexy.
3. Am I on drugs?
4. Did he just seduce me?
And that’s basically how it goes for me with every Weeknd song. However seductive his music is though, there are other issues that the Weeknd delves into that bring some depth to his deceitful, lady-killer persona. Behind all the narcissistic sex lie lyrics such as “Bring your love, baby, I could bring my shame/Bring the drugs, baby, I could bring my pain” and ironic lines such as “This is a happy house/We’re happy here/In a happy house” (and yes, that is a reference to ‘Happy House’ by Siouxie and The Banshees). While singing about the women he beds and the drugs he does, The Weeknd also reveals the cracks in this exterior. He’s a rolling lothario, and he’s a self-loathing Casanova. Drugs are his escape. Sex is his escape. Drugs and sex are the problem. They’re the solution. It isn’t just the memoirs of a single lost weekend. It’s just one, long, lost Weeknd.
There are some differences between the original songs and the remastered ones, but a lot of the differences are minor or hardly noticeable. The most significant one is found in ‘What You Need’. Unlike the original, the one on Trilogy doesn’t sample Aaliyah’s ‘Rock the Boat’. I don’t prefer one to the other. However, I think the three new tracks are something special, they’re not about the sex and the drugs. Well they are, but they aren’t. In the new tracks The Weeknd is portrayed as fragile, as someone who is taken advantage of, as someone who is better at making love than actually loving. ‘Valerie’ in particular caught me off guard with how sensitive it is, and it was refreshing.
Looking at Trilogy as an album, it’s a great accomplishment for The Weeknd. It’s a cohesive collection, and is a testament to his dedication to his work. Looking at it in the context of this year, I’d say it’s not going to get the credit it deserves. Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange has made massive waves since the summer and after good kid, m.A.A.d city, released in October, Kendrick Lamar is swimming in a pool of money trees, in a good way (listen to the album if you don’t understand why I said that). Trilogy might get swept under the rug a bit. However, most of the material on the album already received massive praise during 2011. Though I say this about Trilogy, I actually am listening to ‘Lonely Star’ blasting from the flat above mine. So someone must’ve gotten the memo.
Hailey is listening to The Vandelles – ‘Del Black Aloha’