YEAR IN REVIEW: The 10 Breakout Stars of 2015 - #2 The Weeknd


Posted on

The Weeknd I’ll disclaim it now, I forever hold a bias towards singer, songwriter, and producer The Weeknd’s early and most euphoric underground mixtapes from 2011, formerly Thursday, House of Balloons, and Echoes of Silence. My two closest friends shared a house on the edge of Silver Lake bordering Frogtown, and it quickly became the regular hangout spot and central watering hole where every single person we knew or cared to know expectedly rolled through, sometimes during the week, but always on the weekend. There was a lot of drinking, a lot of smoking, so much ‘brunch’ for no reason at all, but mostly there was the dancing. That first twang of the electric guitar and warm synth layers drawing open “Thursday” had us off the couch and onto a dirty makeshift dance floor for countless blurry hours, often dancing so long that dancing turned into laughing, and laughing into satisfied delirium at the sensation of bass bumping out of speakers too big for the house. The weekend was happiness and being within and without our bodies. It was freedom, and Abel Tesfaye’s dark R&B provided the soundtrack. Those mixtapes were an otherworldly kind of sexy with a certain amount of elegance in them that The Weeknd doesn’t quite infuse in his latest mainstream-compliant production of Beauty Behind the Madness (2015). With that said, I know where The Weeknd began and I see how far he’s come. The new stuff doesn’t have as much atmospheric space, dark trip hop moodiness, chopped up drums, hard-edged electric guitar, or a whole lot of mystery, but most are unarguably strong tracks earning their acclaim. The Weeknd’s cleaned up a lot, but by comparison to other mainstream Pop R&B offerings, he hasn’t totally lost step. Instead he’s cleared a path for himself as a once anonymous, self-made artist to transition into massive success in a relatively short amount of time—a feat you rarely see. I can reminisce all I want about the now repackaged Trilogy, but it’s Beauty Behind the Madness that became The Weeknd’s first number one album on the Billboard 200, including the top-five single “Earned It” and number-one singles “The Hills” and “Can't Feel My Face.” The songs have simultaneously held the top three spots on the Billboard Hot R&B Songs chart, making him the first artist in history to achieve this. If anyone deserves to break through, it’s The Weeknd.