Joe Stile | BASSic
Published: Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 08:11
To the delight of fans around the world, The Weeknd’s new song, “Valerie,” hit airwaves this week. It serves as the closing track for his sinister mixtape, “Thursday,” which is part of his three−part debut album, “Trilogy” (2012).
Much of that mixtape concerns Abel Tesfaye — otherwise known as The Weeknd — and his relationship with a girl who he condescendingly refers to as “Thursday.” It just so happens that this is the one day of the week he stops cheating and is fully hers.
The nickname has a metaphorical meaning as well. Thursday is one of the days closest to the weekend, but it is not actually part of it. In a similar vein, The Weeknd sleeps with “Thursday,” and might even say he loves her, but she isn’t actually a part of his life. No matter how close she is, there always remains a visible separation between the two of them.
In “Valerie,” The Weeknd finally uses her real name, giving her the humanity his other songs have denied her. It also makes the song sound raw, as if he is realizing that his destructive lifestyle has an effect on other people.
With “Valerie,” The Weeknd seems to have gained more perspective on his situation. He starts out talking about himself in the third person rather than in the deeply intimate first person he is used to. This could mean that he’s finally found a way to take a step back from his situation and see it for what it really is. A more cynical interpretation could just be that copious amounts of drugs and meaningless sex have left The Weeknd so detached from his own life that he’s now only an observer of the vicious cycle he’s trapped in. Throughout the song he says things like “I wish I didn’t have to lie” in a painfully honest tone, which suggests he lost the power to fight back against his demons long ago.
In the song, The Weeknd says that he needs to be done with cheating and just love Valerie. After he sings this, though, he hauntingly says, “And nobody’s going to know if it’s true.” This line poignantly shows that a person can apologize after breaking someone’s trust, but there will always be lingering doubt beneath the surface. The line also suggests that even The Weeknd doesn’t know if what he’s saying is true or not.
As a teaser for the song, The Weeknd released a 30−second music video of a woman in a beautiful dress, completely alone, surrounded by a bunch of party balloons and crying. The balloons start to pop one by one as she uncontrollably sobs. In less than a minute, the video magnificently captures her entire relationship with The Weeknd.
While it’s obvious from her emotional display that she’s been crushed, her surroundings and her outfit give the viewer a glimpse of how her night might have gone if The Weeknd were different. It could have been a magical evening for her, but instead she is left downtrodden and broken because he was reckless with her heart.
Over this footage, The Weeknd’s line, “You’d rather this than be alone?” seems more like a sincere question than anything else. That Valerie would even consider answering “yes” in her state further points to how much she loves The Weeknd. This makes his self−destruction all the more tragic, as it becomes no longer just about him, but also about the other people he’s leaving splintered in his wake.
After The Weeknd is done saying how much he loves Valerie, the song continues on with the same spacious beat that it started with, illustrating that, despite everything that has been said, nothing has actually changed. The cycle continues.
Joe Stile is a political science major and English minor. He is a senior and can be reached at Joseph.Stile@tufts.edu.