KSUA 91.5 Notes: The Weeknd's "Trilogy" Reviewed
Brady Gross/Sun Star Columnist
November 20, 2012
The Weeknd has been slowly affecting the independent music scene since late March of 2011. Abel Tesfaye began then with what would become a detailed execution of three free mixtapes over the course of nine months. In the Weeknd’s case, his attention to aesthetic detail and production quality set his mixtapes in a class completely all its own. The real substance comes from the story told by Abel. It sets Trilogy apart from anything music has seen in a long time. Now signed to a major label, a year and a half later, we get to see those original mixtapes remastered and released as a collective whole titled Trilogy.
The first mixtape released, House of Balloons reveals a night and morning after of absolute sex-driven, drug-laden abandonment. The amount of digress and awareness he displays towards screwing up his life, is pure nihilism. In the very first track, he warns his audience, “You wanna be high for this.” He effortlessly beds women against their best judgment and sings about it arrogantly.
Halfway through the album on “Wicked Games” Abel pleads, “Bring your love Baby I can bring my shame/ Bring the drugs Baby I can bring my pain.” And so you continue to watch the night pleasantly but grotesquely slime down a contorted rabbit hole. It leaves the listener feeling mentally dirty but also surprised at how quick they are to hit repeat on their stereo after the album finishes. That is because there is hardly an album that so blatantly exposes desire, hurt, and self-destruction laid over lush thematic palates of music.
That was the ‘fun’ night. Thursday, the next mixtape to follow, eh not so much. We see The Weeknd wander from pure cockiness (first track “Lonely Star”) to self-doubt (“Birds Pt. 1”) to tinged regret (“Heaven or Las Vegas”). The themes accentuated here are exactly what one would expect out of themselves if put in such a situation seen on Balloons. But to actually hear the insomniac-esque transformation in the form of a melodic heart-felt response is quite the beautiful surprise.
This is how Thursday excels and also at times falters. Seen as the middle child of this Trilogy, (both physically and metaphorically) Thursday is definitely the hardest to grasp at times. Songs come and go with such varying amounts of emotional strain. While I hesitate to entrust so much credit, it is hard not to speculate that The Weeknd had this album echo this way on purpose. He has made an atmosphere that resonates how one muddy-minded hung-over individual analyzes the hellish but enjoyable journey the night before held for him. That uncertain haziness is what leaves the listener wanting more. Some sort of resolution feels essential at this point.
This is where Echoes of Silence begins and concludes. Here Abel exclaims his aspirations to heights unreached prior. With his first track on Echoes, a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Dirty Diana” (retitled here simply as “D.D.”) he hits notes with a viscosity and prowess as if he was the ghost of Jackson himself. “No, No, No, Let me be!” he sings with new responsibility, letting us all sigh with relief that Echoes is truly going to show Tesfaye as a changed man.
Just because you’ve realized you want more out of life than one night stands and drugs, doesn’t mean it happens literally over night. What is so great about how this Trilogy wraps up, is that Abel knows this all before we realize it ourselves, and sings about it appropriately.
While this clarification is not exactly the idea the audience surely had in mind, the story was never too picturesque in the first place.This is a layering piece of work that not only makes you contemplate the underbelly of youthful cultural excess, but also the most basic of human instincts and its temptations. Never has such a skewed, realistic exploration of male inhibitions been so blatant, explicit, and invoking.
The Weeknd’s technical first commercial release, Trilogy, by nature then is a tad daunting. Consuming thirty tracks is asking a lot from a first time listener. But with three CDs all labeled, packaged, and laid out as they were meant to be listened to, it can be manageable if approached correctly. Just as this review was a long time coming, so has been the wait for The Weeknd among the mainstream.
Essential Tracks: “What You Need,” “The Party and the After Party,” “The Zone,” “D.D” and “Initiation”