We need to talk about The Weeknd.
Despite the fact that I’ve been using the 23-year-old Canadian R&B producer/singer-songwriter’s signature sound to describe the output of several pop stars over the past year, I’ve somehow failed to acknowledge his own sublime catalog on MuuMuse. So, let’s fix that.
First, a quick catch up: The Weeknd quickly grabbed the attention of the blogosphere (and beyond) with the release of 3 mixtapes over the course of 2011: House of Balloons, Thursday and Echoes of Silence, impressing listeners with his chilly alternative to classic R&B.
His sound lies somewhere between Michael Jackson, Drake and the Cocteau Twins; a unique mixture of melodic R&B coos, minimalist melancholy and spacey ambient sound. And even if he’s singing about sex, drugs and money throughout most of his songs, you wouldn’t really know it: There’s a lingering sadness throughout — like a ghost quietly wallowing through a strip club. You get the sneaking suspicion that it gets pretty lonely within The Weeknd’s world.
In 2012, The Weeknd released all three of his mixtapes as a single compilation on Republic Records called Trilogy, which has since become the go-to soundtrack for every late night listening session I’ve had in the past six months (y’know, like right now).
After being named one of the BBC’s Sound of 2013 finalists at the end of last year, The Weeknd’s now gearing up to release his follow-up record, Kiss Land, later this year.
The title track, which he released back in mid-May, maintains The Weeknd’s signature moody styling, but with a subtle evolution in sound: There’s some twinkling bells and distant shrieks thrown into the mix, like a spook-R&B reinterpretation of The Exorcist: “The only thing you’re taking is your clothes off / Go ‘head girl, strip it down, close your mouth / I just want to hear your body talk,” he croons.
Midway through, the track shifts over into another song entirely (“John Carpenter”), as the drums trip harder and the spacey, semi-demented synths carry the singer into Charli XCX/Grimes-like dream/goth-pop territory. Here, he opens up about coping with fame, fortune and drug abuse: “I got a brand new place, I think I’ve seen it twice all year / I can’t remember how it looks inside, so you can picture how my life’s been.” Some might scoff off his #fameproblems, but there’s something oddly relatable about Weeknd’s candor — even if he thinks otherwise: “This ain’t nothing to relate to / But you tried, you tried.”
Like every other Weeknd track, “Kiss Land” is hypnotizing, heartbreaking and purely next-level.
For my fellow late night listeners out there, go on and give this one a spin.
“Kiss Land” was released on May 17. (iTunes)