Chilling with The Weeknd

Finally getting around to doing this entry.
I was waiting until I’d heard the album through a couple times to be sure how I felt about certain songs.
And also to explain why I feel the way I do.

When I first heard The Weeknd sing, it was “Earned It.” I didn’t know at the time it was from “50 shades” (and the couple times I’ve watched it since, it’s a guilty pleasure moment when the song comes on. I just close my eyes and let it wash over me. Visually, I’m not missing much. It’s a transition going from one set piece to the next. Really no dialogue).
I literally melted when I heard that voice hit the high falsetto in the pre-chorus. A voice hadn’t done that to me since Prince… maybe it’s because I haven’t heard him recently or not that part of his voice that gets the women in me excited. The way he is now, celibate, non-explicit and sporting that afro, there’s not much of that happening.

The first time I heard “I can’t feel my face,” I didn’t pick up right away that it was the same guy. And of course, Tom Cruise had a lip-sync battle with Jimmy Fallon and started with this song (when it was a candidate for “Song of Summer 2015”). Ever now and then, that does come to mind. Now I can’t help but a) sing along and b) question what the lyrics mean.

“In the Night”- by this point, I did recognize his voice. The lyrics intrigued me- firstly because it’s a different song than what he usually sings about. It’s not about being with a woman. It’s about the woman herself, paints a picture of her less than perfect life. Where she’s basically described as a prostitute because her man abused her and she’s in that life because of it.
Or maybe I’m just projecting my own idea of the song. I swear it sounds very much like a protagonist in a story I’m writing. She voluntarily prostitutes herself to earn extra money where she works, but she also does it because she’s a sex addict who’d been wronged by a couple men in her life- so she’s dead set against having a legit relationship with anyone. And my story kinda centers around her state of mind changing.

What am I getting at with this long introduction?

When I take on a new artist, particularly one I haven’t gotten to know on American Idol or another reality singing show, I take a while to warm up to them. Based on past experiences, I want to be sure I like 2-3 of their songs before I get an album. This method isn’t full proof, of course. Sometimes I’m just not comfortable with certain artists…
In this case, it was definitely a success.

He might not be in the top percentile of musicians and singers in my music collection, but I will definitely come back to this album whenever I’m in the mood.
Like if I’m in the mood to be serenaded or something to that effect.

The Weeknd and Sam Smith have in common the fact that I didn’t really know what they looked like for the longest time. But they have such unique, amazing voices- it’s almost better not knowing what they look like.

At least with The Weeknd that’s the case… that dude’s hairstyle isn’t exactly a turn-on.

But what sold me on the album ultimately- when he performed a medley of songs on the finale of “The Voice”- one of the highlights along with Coldplay during their newest song.
I recognized most of the songs and the ones I didn’t know… his stage presence was electrifying. But maybe I was just caught up in the moment when he did “Earned It”…

The first listen had mixed results. Started off really strong and I loved the first couple songs.
Then I had a bit of a rude awakening… and it’s my fault, really. I somehow missed/ignored/forgot about the Parental Advisory sticker on the cover.
I know I have the Internet at my fingertips as well (and iTunes to preview songs), but I like hearing them for the first time. That whole experience. It allows for special moments to happen.

One or two songs use the n’word. I’m not against it other than the fact it makes it harder to sing along (I will throw f-bombs while singing to American Idiot, but I have to draw a line somewhere).
Also not crazy about him referring to women as “bitches”… it happens a couple times in only a few songs and I know that’s how some people talk, but it rubs me the wrong way a little bit.

After having a couple goes in the car, I put the album on my iPod so I can listen to it at my leisure. In the car, it doesn’t quite work for me at this point. Because I don’t know the songs too well yet- maybe that’s why I hadn’t really established that connection yet. Also because certain songs went too long for me and my attention span was drifting a bit.

“Often” was the first song I cut from my iPod. As great as it is rhythmically, I can’t get over the explicit nature of it.
It’s about having lots of sex and uses figurative language referring to a part of the female anatomy.

Prince has a song called “Pussy Control” but in that case, it’s the name of a strong independent woman- so strong that she hired the men who bullied her as a kid and made them work for free.
He was at least tactful with explicit language… at least most of the time.

“Tell your friends” has some questionable bits that I was unsure about.
It was the first track where language came up and I was thrown off a bit.
But what kinda gets me is the story being portrayed here. He’s basically boasting about his sexual prowess and asking the girl to tell her friends all about him and how he satisfies her needs and such.
Even if I wasn’t a virgin, I wouldn’t feel comfortable with bragging about how great my guy is at sex. That’s something I feel that should be private between me and him.
I do love the musical aspect of it, though. The chorus has a great build-up with the anticipation and such. And I love the use of piano throughout- almost like a throwback loungey vibe.

Skipping back to the first two songs:

“Real Life” is a good introductory track to him. A lot of great vocals.
It also kinda presents him in a vulnerable way. He wants to find love, but he has issues with keeping his women. For whatever reason, he ends up pushing them away.
It’s kind a bit of conundrum.

One thing that threw me off a bit too was having some guest artists come in.
At least at first.

“Losers” features someone (or some group) called Labrinth. The Weeknd trades off with him/them with the different verses.
What stays with me is the chorus where they ask “what can you show me that my heart don’t know already?”
something about the attitude in this track, saying going to school is for losers because you learn more from having street smarts. It’s a little off-putting.
But the music brings me back. A great R&B groove that features horns and piano.

When I really start to get into my groove, this song called “The Hills.” I’m sure I heard him perform this on The Voice and that was one of those highlights from that medley.
He couldn’t do too much, I don’t think, because the chorus drops a lot of f-bombs.
I feel like it would have been a great smooth hip-hop routine for “So you think you can dance”- except that it might be too mature for TV-PG.
Looking at the lyrics (the fact they’re explicit totally explains why I had to go to freaking google, lol), it’s really racy… he’s seducing this girl he’s friends with when her boyfriend is out of town.
The chorus is so seductive, omg, kill me now… I can’t take it sometimes 😛

“Acquainted” has a great commercability about it. If it didn’t run a little too long, it could have been on the radio. The chorus has a great hook.

“I can’t feel my face”… I gotta ask… what does that mean?
Are they kissing so much that he can’t feel his face anymore?
Or if is it oral sex related? It’d certainly be a good juxtaposition (hope I’m using that word right) from “Often”.
It kinda ruins the song to think what it means a little too much. Great beat. Love how his voice goes high in the pre-chorus.

The falsetto comes out a bit more in “Shameless.”
For me, it falls in line with my idea of what “In the Night” is about. Another song that would suit my protagonist in my story a lot.
Especially the lyric “I don’t want to hurt you but you live for the pain. I’m not trying to say it but it’s what you became”
Interesting production choice on the lyric “I have no shame”- they have a back-up vocal come in “Shame!” to give it an echo. Makes the impact all the more powerful.

“Earned it” I’d already gone into a little bit, but I don’t have much more to add. Still my favorite track here, although there are lots of good ones.

Aesthetically, everything about “As You are” works. It feels like an 80’s throwback ballad, but the vibe doesn’t fit him in my opinion.
Then it runs an extra two minutes and nothing happens… it’s just ad-libbing and it doesn’t grab me.
So it’s probably another one I’m going to leave off my iPod the next time I get around to deleting songs.

Going back to guest-star artists…
When I bought the album and looked at the song list, I noticed Ed Sheeran and knew something good was going to follow. (Funny that I saw this and not the Parental Advisory sticker).

But when I got to him on that first listen of “Dark Times,” it was oddly a letdown. Maybe because I’d had so many eargasms listening to the artist the album actually belongs to that it threw off my groove.
Then I wondered if the lyrics really work. For Ed Sheeran the way I know him through his music, it doesn’t fit him at all.
It’s about being in a dark place and only his mother can love him and he can’t really have a relationship with anyone else until he gets out of this dark place.
It has grown on me over time, though. I kinda enjoy it, but not the way I do a lot of Ed Sheeran’s music.

“Prisoner” has our final guest artists, Lana Del Rey. I like her sometimes. Sometimes I don’t.
Overall, I don’t like this song no matter who’s singing on it. It’s so different from the rest of the album thematically and musically. Not to mention the whole seduction, baby-making R&B music thing he had going on… it’s completely gone.
So if anything, this song runs too long and it depresses the hell out of me. Looking at the lyrics, maybe that’s why. It’s about being addicted to being lonely and sad and it’s a hard addiction to break even with you’re in a relationship with someone you really care about. Also the textures and production on the vocals- they’re eerie as hell. So I don’t really enjoy this one at all.

The final song ran a little long for me the first time. Dang, it’s over 6 minutes long!
It feels like another 80’s throwback track, like maybe something Michael Jackson could sing (the two of them have similar sounding voices to me- maybe that’s what got me hooked). “Angel” has a beautiful sentiment, but it runs long at times. And I dislike the whole cliché of having a choir come in- that’s just me.

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