The Weeknd’s reluctant pop
Canadian Abel Tesfaye has been slowly fast-tracked from underground to mainstream.
He gave donut-licker Ariana Grande cred on their duet Love Me Harder and improved 50
Shades Of Grey with Earned It. The tipping point was one of the best (and most subversive) pop songs of the year, Can’t Feel
My Face, written with Swedish pop genius Max Martin. You only go to Martin for No.1 hits.
So Tesfaye’s project The Weeknd (yep, the final ‘e’ has been dropped) get a major push with this second studio album.
He now shares fans with 1D, but this is in parts a reluctant pop album with Tesfaye refusing to censor himself.
Indeed there’ll be parental alarm at some of the lyrics here — Often and The Hills go deep into gynaecological detail about bedroom downpours and chemical intakes (possibly also the reason his face can’t be felt). The autobiographical Tell
Your Friends states “I’m that n----- with the hair singin’ ‘ bout poppin’ pills, f-----g b-----s.”
That track’s produced by Kanye West who generously applies all the mainstream sheen and catchy samples he now avoids for himself. Guests include Labrinth on Losers (which basically says hey kids, don’t stay in school), Lana Del Rey on the static Prisoner (considering their joint love for hedonism it’s kind of dull) and Ed Sheeran on the bluesy, violent Dark Times. Max Martin’s back for
Shameless — a bland, radiofriendly ballad with radio-unfriendly lyrics — and In the
Night where Tesfaye earns all those Michael Jackson comparisons, with a The Way
You Make Me Feel vibe. Deliberately filled with thrillers ,Tesfaye’s about to find out if fame suits him. Fast.