There’s no way to know what kind of music kids who grew up with smartphones will be making in the next ten years. But the music being made now by kids who grew up with the Internet is occasionally brilliant. While it sounds like nothing else out there, The Weeknd sounds like all the imagistic paranoias of youth culture carved into a chalk outline.
Abel Tesfaye, as we know, is a 20-year-old from Toronto, which is also where those noted house revivalists Azari & III are from. I’m friends with a dude on Facebook who, before I hid him for being spammier than shit, used to put up some of the most fabulous-looking hipster party photography I ever saw. He lives in Toronto. Maybe we should all move there, get free health care and be fabulous.
When the Internet is right about something — democracy, cats, or candidate Barack Obama — it feels like the greatest party drug ever made. Your brain actually hurts from being so validated/so in unison. The Internet got The Weeknd so right, and following the hype to its illogical conclusion has been so grievously good, you could almost believe in never being Ponzied again. Because of The Weeknd, I can click YouTube links and sally onto SoundCloud without fear. Who cares if I get fooled again? The Weeknd has been as good as people say, not once but twice now!
Okay, Thursday isn’t as instantly memorable as House of Balloons. The new songs are looser and less hinged, in terms of mood not production. There’s no “What You Need” or “The Morning” to lead off your Rinse FM set. But there’s so much anguish in this material, it’s like House Of Balloons was the only slightly deranged first letter from a panicked ex-lover. Thursday is shit getting real, threatening to kill yourself and your whole family.
The greatest reaction to a breakup ever is in Thomas Hardy’s “Jude the Obscure“: Jude gets so upset he burns a photograph of HIMSELF. At certain moments when the light hits Thursday just right, it sounds like that. I mean this is not a breakup record per se, obviously. It’s still all about drugs and strippers and skeeving. But the at-large ennui and its aftertaste of privilege are such fantastic fiction it qualifies as riveting, especially in the Real-Housewives era. Sometimes it’s actually better to just make shit up, and I’m not saying Abel Tesfaye never actually felt this way or is in no way predicting his own future with the sort of lost concave glamour he sings about. All I’m saying is that it doesn’t matter if you think Bret Easton Ellis novels are airless splatterpaint; real feelings, real emotions are produced by all the emptiness simply because it’s beautifully-rendered.
If you listen to “The Zone” or “Rolling Stone” you don’t hear a kid lamenting the lousy fact that money can’t buy him love. All you hear is a kid in trouble. What makes The Weeknd exquisite is the way a fucked-up psyche can centrifugally affect a safe one — yours, whoever’s hearing it, in this case. It’s not brand new or anything, it’s just that the emotional intelligence of this music is fairly incredible for a 20-year-old in 2011. And the drums sound amazing. I wouldn’t be saying any of this if that weren’t true.
Terius Nash – 1977
SBTRKT – SBTRKT
HTRK – Work (Work Work)
Download: The Weeknd – Thursday