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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, April 15, 2024

The Weeknd shows evolution in 'Beauty Behind the Madness'

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The Weeknd frontman Tesfaye has compiled a well-rounded album with his "Beauty Behind the Madness," featuring many well-known artists.

Fans of singer-songwriter Abel Tesfaye, known by the moniker The Weeknd since his debut mixtape "House of Balloons" (2011), have no need to fret. His second album, "Beauty Behind the Madness" -- released Aug. 28 -- stays truer to his R&B roots than did his June single "Can't Feel My Face," his most popular song.The release of "Can't Feel My Face" made fans, including this reviewer, worry that the rest of the album would follow suit and lose the distinct R&B sound that makes The Weeknd stand out. Thankfully, "Beauty Behind the Madness" shows a great balance between R&B and pop, which will please long-time admirers and recent fans alike.

The album doesn't start off with its strongest material. The tone of opener "Real Life" is dark, as Tesfaye sings about the ways in which his destructive nature causes him to push away women whom he loves. "Losers," the second song, is the weakest on the album, though this doesn't say much since the album as a whole is impressive. "Losers" features British singer-songwriter Labrinth, and the beat that drives it is simultaneously interesting and disjointed. The electronic nature of the song is creative, but sadly not very compelling.

Fortunately, "Tell Your Friends" (produced by Kanye West) really kicks the album into gear. It is reminiscent of old-school The Weeknd; Tesfaye sings that he is going to live his life the way he wants. He boasts of relationships, sex and drugs -- a return to the subject matter of his older songs.

The next two songs are the best on the album. Both "Often" and "The Hills" are extremely catchy without having the tackiness sometimes associated with pop music. Both of these songs were released as singles -- "Often" on July 31, 2014 and "The Hills" on May 27 of this year. The background instrumentals in "Often" sound almost like noises an alien spaceship might make, but they manage to coexist and produce verses that exude sensuality. "The Hills" is powered by its incredible beat and forceful chorus. As of Sept. 9, it is at number three on the Billboard Top 100, right under "Can't Feel My Face," which recently dropped to number two.

"Acquainted" and "Can't Feel My Face" follow, both of which have their own flaws. "Acquainted," a slow track clocking in at almost six minutes, drags on a bit and ends with a weak outro. "Can't Feel My Face" clearly has mass appeal, but is more pop than R&B, the latter of which The Weeknd does more successfully.

"Shameless," the next song on the album, is fairly minimalist, which actually works in its favor. It also brings in a bit of rock, accentuated by an electric guitar solo in the middle of the song. It's simple, but creative. The next song, "Earned It," is best known for its appearance in the movie "50 Shades of Grey" (2015), and like "Shameless," it is rather simple. It's extremely catchy, supported by smooth vocals.

The next song, "In the Night," almost sounds like a Michael Jackson song. Its verse is upbeat, with sharp vocals, standing in contrast to the dark intensity of the chorus. This is followed by "As You Are," which is slow and sultry, continuing in a similar tone as "In the Night."

The Weeknd blesses his listeners with three songs: "Dark Times," "Prisoner" and "Angel," featuring Ed Sheeran, Lana Del Rey and Maty Noyes, respectively. During Ed Sheeran's first verse in "Dark Times," it seems unlikely that his voice will mesh well with Tesfaye's, especially considering the gap between the genres of their respective musical careers. However, by the chorus, they coincide together much better.

Clashing was not a problem at all for the Lana Del Rey collaboration, as she and The Weeknd have similar sounds. "Prisoner" has a full background, and the blending between the two voices is seamless.

The album closes with "Angel," a slow, pretty track. Maty Noyes is featured at the end of this sweet song, in which The Weeknd talks about letting an angelic girl go so that she can find someone who takes better care of her.

"Beauty Behind the Madness" shows a definite change in content. The Weeknd sings less about meaningless sex and drugs and more about complex relationships with others and himself. Tesfaye opens himself up for self-reflection and successfully puts a creative spin on the R&B genre. Keep on the lookout for this album at next year's Grammy Music Awards.

Summary The Weeknd successfully expands and evolves upon the R&B genre in its newest album, "Beauty Behind the Madness." The album's sound and content show impressive growth from the young artist.
4.5 Stars