Abel Tesfaye, the Toronto born singer, better known as his stage name ‘The Weeknd’ is back with his third, but first ‘mainstream’ album. The Weeknd first arrived on to the music scene in 2011, when he released three mix tapes which all joined together to create the album Trilogy in 2012. When these tracks first came out no one had any idea who he was, his identity was as mysterious as his music but fast forward three years later and he lands himself a UK and US number 1 album and is slowly becoming one of the most recognised RnB artists in the world.
The Weeknd first became popular in the mainstream world when surprisingly, at least to his fans who had been there from the start, recorded the soundtrack to the Fifty Shades of Grey film, releasing the hit song “Earned It” which appears on the album and collaborated with one of the biggest pop stars at the moment, Ariana Grande on the track “Love Me Harder.”
Beauty Behind the Madness features collaborations from many stars such as Lana Del Rey and UK stars Ed Sheeran and Labrinth, a far cry from his previous two albums where his fans were still getting to know him and what he was about.
The most iconic track on the album, “Tell Your Friends” which features and was co produced by Kanye West is the track he uses to tell the story about his career and how he feels now he’s made it so big opposed to when he was releasing the mix tapes with no identity where he tells his fans “I used to hate attention now I pull off in that wagon” and who better to help you to talk about attention than Kanye West.
The change in The Weeknd’s career is not only apparent in the track “Tell Your Friends” but also in tracks such as the hits “I Can’t Feel my Face”, “Earned It” and “In the Night” which are all suitable, and have been played on mainstream radio stations such as Capital FM which would have been unimaginable for his previous records. Although these tracks still have a dark tendency to them, they’re not as raw as the records the old Weeknd fans know and love and this could be a disappointment.
However, he does stick to his roots in some tracks, where his main focus is what it always has been, drugs and sex. The Weeknd addresses youth culture with the song Acquainted where he tells the woman he’s singing about: “to say that we’re in love is dangerous but girl I’m so glad we’re acquainted” which could be a situation many of his fans could relate to. He also addresses a large proportion go his fans in this song by singing: “These girls born in the 90’s are dangerous” so he isn’t leaving them behind for the mainstream world just yet.
In this album, The Weeknd had to get the right balance between what would suit his new mainstream audience and his original fans, which he seems to have done a pretty good job at.