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Music Review | Weeknd triumphs with long−awaited Trilogy

‘Trilogy’ showcases Abel Tesfaye’s singing and songwriting prowess

Published: Monday, November 19, 2012

Updated: Monday, November 19, 2012 08:11

Since the 1960s, parents have warned of the dangers of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll, but never have these threats seemed as menacing as they do on The Weeknd’s studio debut. “Trilogy,” which includes remastered versions of the R&B singer’s three mixtapes along with a trio of new songs, is an epic saga about Abel Tesfaye — AKA The Weeknd — and his struggle with hard drugs, loveless women and his own inability to love.

On “Trilogy,” Tesfaye battles his demons and the ramifications of his lifestyle as he rotates through numb encounters with women and illicit substances. As the three−disc collection progresses, Tesfaye descends farther and farther into his sad and solitary life.

Broken down into three distinct sections called “House of Balloons,” “Thursday” and “Echoes of Silence,” the album takes traditional R&B structure and throws in ambient noises, experimental post−rock techniques, electronic stylings and other industrial methods to create a sound that’s simultaneously familiar and alien.

“Triology’s” style is similar to The Weeknd’s established lyrics and persona. However, while Tesfaye covers the much of the same ground as other R&B artists, he takes everything to a much more ominous and threatening place.

A 30−track debut may seem intimidating for new listeners, but the album’s opener, “High for This,” does an impressive job of encapsulating what’s so special about The Weeknd. The song is incredibly sinister and creates a distinct aura by conspicuously holding back from its audience. It also gives a glimpse of the world that Tesfaye lives in, where hard partying and hard feelings are the norm.

On “High for This,” Tesfaye tells a girl he’s just met that, even though she doesn’t like drugs, she will wish she were high when she figures out what he is about to do to her. It’s left to the listener’s imagination what nefarious act Tesfaye is planning, which makes the song all the more chilling. Despite the dark content, his vocals are practically angelic on the track and his singing feels reassuring and enticing. The bassline chops Tesfaye’s voice while the layering and echoing effects make his formerly comforting line, “I’m right here,” seem more like a taunt. As the drugs kick in, the bass line becomes overpowering and dubstep−esqe, making the track incredibly disorienting.

Like his contemporaries, The−Dream and Frank Ocean, Tesfaye isn’t just creating a song — he’s creating a world. His world just happens to be more frightening and deranged than that of any other R&B artist working today.

Besides the amazing music, The Weeknd impresses fans with his strong, cohesive image. Every move he makes and each album he releases is the result of a calculated, thought−out decision. It all is part of the persona he is trying to cultivate.

The Weeknd often uses the moniker XO. To most, this name just looks stylish, but it’s also another way Tesfaye creates a multifaceted representation of himself. XO is a universal symbol for a hug and a kiss, which speaks to The Weeknd’s obsession with sex and love on his debut album. XO is also an obscure club term for taking both ecstasy and oxycontin, which mirrors Tesfaye’s experiences with drugs. With just two simple letters, The Weeknd is able to signify two major and prominent motifs on his record.

While many people already have older versions of the songs found on “Trilogy,” the remastering makes them worth buying again. The guitar on “The Morning” is sharper, the vocals on “Same Old Song” are heavier and the drums on “The Birds, Pt. 1” pop more. These subtle, yet pleasant changes ultimately make the tracks feel fresher and more alive. It’s almost like hearing the songs in HD for the first time.

Listening to the entirety of “Trilogy” in one continuous sitting is like experiencing a gritty indie film. Over the more than two and a half hours of music, themes of love, isolation and self−hatred emerge as Tesfaye continues his descent into the darkness. It’s a hell of a ride, and with his release of “Trilogy,” The Weeknd is sure to continue his reign as one of music’s next great talents.

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