The Weeknd, also known by the given name Abel Tesfaye, the phenomenal indie-dance-new-R&B singer from Ontario. Anyone even vaguely familiar with House of Balloons, the first such mixtape, and one of the most memorable genre-blending pieces of pure joy to grace the year 2011, Thursday, the second part of The Weeknd's intended mixtape trilogy, is another powerful step in the right direction. Tesfaye's reliable and passionate vocals perfectly complement the often grungy, post-dubstep electronic work. In short, or maybe in long, this music is the embodiment of man-and-machine. And, fully risking the possibility of saying something hilariously alarmist: This could be the very beginning of the singularity. That's the one where the robots start eating our brains, right? Or guitars start hitting werewolves with those inflatable hammers that have a squeaky toy in them? Or something.
Thursday opens with the gorgeous subtle crackle of a record needle finding its groove. And in large part, that is what "Lonely Star" does, offering a lush, complex song construction that sets the tone for the album. We find our beat. We feel the slow but determined bass blips and crunches. And we get full wind of Tesfaye's voice, starting syrupy and mysterious and becoming progressively more immediate and vulnerable with time. It's an immaculate start. "Life of the Party" loads a vibrant, cinematic quality into the album using a haunting melody, an uneasy beat and echoing, almost blaming choral vocals. The thunder and lightning quality to the percussion adds to the general sense of danger, too. It's a potently evocative track. Titular track "Thursday" swings to the spacier end of the spectrum. And also to a much sweeter, more traditional R&B style. We are treated here to something that seeps sincerity and urgency. The Weeknd plays with our emotions here too, but does so carefully, nimbly plucking at our heartstrings while simultaneously lulling us into a state of security. It's a potent mix.
"The Zone" features a similar sincerity and slow-burning groove. At this point we realize that Thursday is an album of pleas, dreams, and careful deceptions. "The Birds Part 1" is a powerful march and rallying cry. It's a song that fights against love. It's decries love. But not Love, only the individual love that The Weeknd can give. It's a brilliant idea, that we have the power to make one fall in love with us, unbeknownst to our efforts. This is possible the best track on the album. "The Birds Part 2" continues the theme, using the same lyrics, but spreading it over a much sadder backing track and slower beat. In "Part 1" the refrain is warning, but by "Part 2" it's a tragedy. "Rolling Stone" uses a pleasing guitar intro, an acoustic repetition that lays the backing for a song of street life, sadness, addiction and disappointment. It's an amazing vulnerable song, including the line "I'll keep on smoking til I can't hit another note," which serves only to haunt the listener additionally. This is tragedy continued, but outside of romantic love. "Gone" is crunchy and subtle, slow and lilting. But, the real treat is the slight build, one that ends in escalating lyrical frustration and a pounding drumbeat. The brief closer "Heaven or Las Vegas" has a distinctly "call to arms" design blended into its rousing beat and somewhat simple, relaxed melody. Around 1:48 in, it builds into a grunting guitar riff that is amazing.
Did I mention that this album is free? Oh I did. Well, it's free. And it's amazing that such a thing can happen. I suggest that you download it now. And when given the chance, see The Weeknd live, making the completed trilogy fully and delightfully possible. Great music deserves our support, otherwise we all turn to black and white... not even the cool hipster sepia tone. Or you can stream it below too.
The Weeknd Thursday by the weeknd thursday
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