Tag Archives: the weeknd

Review: The Weeknd – Thursday

The WeekndThursday (2011) [Self-Released] // Grade: B-

The Weeknd’s Abel Tesfaye is a star now, and he acts the part on his latest mixtape, Thursday. The second part of a trilogy of tapes (Echoes of Silence will follow this fall), The Weeknd continues his examination of the dreary side of debauchery and the failings of fame. In Act II of his musical journey, the Weeknd is further down his drug-induced rabbit hole. For Thursday, that means less hooks, more orchestration, less love, more regrets.

For the most part, the sound is still the same. This is music for the haze of the morning-after: downtempo beats and downbeat instrumentation. That smokey ambiance of House of Balloons still permeates. The thread throughout is Tesfaye’s voice, which ranges from a faltering falsetto (“Lonely Star”) to sharp and focused (“Rolling Stone”). With the focus shifted from his lyrics to his vocals, there’s some vamping and over-singing that distracts from the songs themselves.

The centerpiece of Thursday is “The Birds” couplet. “Part I” is quintessential Weeknd fare. While the caged bird metaphor is a little weak, the chorus (“Don’t make me make you fall in love with a nigga like me”) is the mixtape’s closest lyrical flourish to House of Balloon’s “Drinking Alizé with our cereal for breakfast.” Counterpoint harmonies and the epic drums of 808s and Heartbreak fall away to reveal a finger-picked guitar and Tesfaye, alone: his natural disposition. The screwed down “Part 2” is as much a sequel to “Wicked Games,” with plenty of guitar vibrato and orchestra hits that pack a punch. Sampling Martina Topley Bird’s “Sandpaper Kisses” is a not-so-subtle nod to the trip hop vibe that this album feeds off.

Thursday’s lone guest star is the one we’ve been waiting for: co-signer-in-chief Drake. On “The Zone,” Drake’s typical nonchalance is practically punchy compared to that of Tesfaye. He delivers his punchlines with a staccato flow, filling in the details of The Weeknd’s lyrically bare composition (“Lips so French, ass so Spanish”). And while Drake sang of “Houstatlantavegas,” The Weeknd aims higher. Above the sinister guitar riffs of “Heaven of Vegas,” either the cocaine is talking or Tesfaye has self-actualized. He sings, “They say, they want heaven / They say, they want God / I say, I have heaven / I say, I am God.” With the lifestyle he bemoans and besmirches, maybe it’s a combination of both.

Download: The Weeknd – Thursday

Originally posted on the Mishka Bloglin.

Meet the High5Collective, masters of the unofficial video

“We make videos for artists that inspire us.”

That simple credo comes from the High5Collective. If you don’t know their name yet, you soon will. While music video directors CANADA use the traditional, artist-commissioned model, the High5Collective (or H5C) is trying something different: producing high-quality – but unofficial – videos on spec. Coupled with a low-information mystique and a reliance on social media like Tumblr, H5C is firmly in touch with the zeitgeist.

H5C appeared out of nowhere about a month ago, with a video for The Weeknd’s “The Morning.” Like the song, the clip is a lurid tribute to debauchery, complete with half-dressed club rats and expansive shots of the desert. Straying from form, however, is the video’s dip into darkness: a metaphorical take on the psychic damage that the club lifestyle entails.


The collective has also tackled songs by the Internet driven, crew-of-the-moment, Odd Future. H5C’s video for Frank Ocean’s “We All Believe” continues the visual feel of “The Morning,” even if there isn’t as strong a thread from song to video. Like a better version of Rihanna’s “Man Down,” the clip is a tale of assault, revenge, and murder. Again, H5C opts for a sinister narrative and an unsettling conclusion.


Their recently released video for Tyler, the Creator’s “Transylvania” attempts to capture the spirit of the earliest Odd Future clips (notably “EARL“). “Transylvania,” one of the hardest songs on Goblin, is the perfect soundtrack for some wolf gang-esque mayhem: skateboarding, drug-use, underage drinking, violence, theft, and eventually (and predictably), date rape. Like KIDS, it’s shocking because of its verisimilitude.


Rounding out the collective’s output is a clip for Sander Kleinenberg’s electrohouse anthem “T.I.O.N.” The video is straight-forward but effective: one of those mythic parties of youth, with enough oddly colored drinks and sexual experimentation to go around. Also, body paint.


Will the High5Collective be able to convert unofficial videos into official ones? In an age where Kreayshawn gets a $1 million contract after one video goes viral, the right combination of talent and savvy goes a long way. The High5Collective is blessed with both.

Video Rundown: Brenmar / The Weeknd / Tyler the Creator

Here are three new videos that challenge the concept of sexuality in the format. Audiences are used to dancers, models, and objects of affection in clips; what happens when these sex objects are taken out of their element?

Brenmar – Taking It Down

The video for Brenmar’s “Taking It Down” flips the concept of the lap dance: the dancer keeps her clothes on as she takes off Brenmar’s… hair. Intercut with scenes from a dreamlike, after-hours rave in the barber shop, the clip complements the Marques Houston-sampling slice of rhythm and bass. Who knew a straight razor shave could be so sexy?

The Weeknd – The Morning

From the High 5 Collective comes another unofficial – yet slickly produced – video for a song by the Weeknd. Like the clip for “What You Need,” this one for “The Morning” features semi-dressed club girls during the morning after. But as these four wander home from partying in the desert, things take a turn for the weird. Models, cocaine, the Devil – what doesn’t this video have?


Tyler the Creator – She (feat. Frank Ocean)

Odd Future has come a long way from lo-fi skate videos. The clip for Tyler’s “She” actually has a narrative, albeit an OFWGKTA-approved one about stalking and violence. Tyler (who also directed) appears as the ski-mask and Supreme clad Goblin, stalking Frank Ocean’s girlfriend. The twisted tale of high school devotion ends with Tyler smiling and practically winking at the camera, acknowledging that the video – and the Odd Future MO – are both fantasies.

The Weeknd gets chopped and screwed

While many are vying to tag The Weeknd’s music with a genre name, not many were clamoring for slower, meditative versions of his already down-tempo jams. Despite this, two chopped and screwed takes on the House of Balloons mixtape have cropped up, with mixed results.

Swishahouse co-founder and chopped and screwed pioneer OG Ron C gives his trademark treatment to House of Balloons, as does Odd Future member Mike G. Both versions provide the syrupy (in more ways than one) sounds for which the genre is known, but as expected, OG Ron C’s comes out ahead.

The veteran does more chopping than a sous chef; his sample twisting on mixtape standout “What You Need” manages to make the tune even more hypnotic.

[wpaudio url=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/WeekndOGRonC.mp3″ text=”The Weeknd – What You Need (OG Ron C version)” dl=0]

Mike G, on the other hand, opts for a more straightforward BPM drop. Sometimes that’s enough: the sinister “Glass Table Girls” coda on the title track doesn’t need much work before sounding like witch house.

[wpaudio url=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/WeekndMikeG.mp3″ text=”The Weeknd – House of Balloons / Glass Table Girls (Mike G version)” dl=0]

At first glance, chopping and screwing House of Balloons seems redundant and unnecessary. But the inspiration seems to be drawn straight from The Weeknd’s lyrics.

From “Wicked Game:”

Bring your love, baby I can bring my shame
Bring the drugs, baby I can bring my pain
I got my heart right here, I got my scars right here
Bring the cups, baby I can bring the drank

Or more succinctly, from “The Morning:”

Codeine cups paint a picture so vivid

Download: OG Ron C – House of Balloons (Chopped-up not slopped-up)
Download: Mike G – House of Balloons (Screwed)

The limits of genres: thoughts on Frank Ocean and The Weeknd

For the last month, two of the most buzzed about artists have been Frank Ocean and The Weeknd. Both are previously-unknown musicians who released free mixtapes to quick critical praise: Nostalgia, Ultra and House of Balloons, respectively. Both are associated with fan favorites, as well: Frank Ocean with OFWGKTA and The Weeknd with Drake.

But in an unfortunate turn, both artists have been pigeonholed as “hipster R&B” or the more derisive “PBR&B.” The incessant need to tag nascent sounds with quirky genre names is nothing new (see: witch house, chillwave), but with this particular sound and name, it’s even more controversial than ever. Some have called it offensive, as Jozen Cummings did in The Awl, suggesting that:

Calling it “hipster R&B” is a nice way of saying it’s R&B that white people like (black hipsters notwithstanding), and here’s my problem with that: It’s myopic, lazy, and it sounds to me like a form of musical segregation that’s not entirely based on genre.

This is a similar issue to one I’ve thought about for some time (and wrote about when reviewing Janelle Monae): the inability or unwillingness of the music industry to classify and market black artists who don’t fit comfortably in the hip hop and R&B pigeonholes. For Cummings and others, the problem is calling Frank Ocean and The Weeknd R&B solely because they’re black, while white artists who mix the same influences are not.

In this case, I’m not totally sure that’s the problem. I hear R&B influences, however diffused, in the work of Frank Ocean and The Weeknd, in the same way I hear them in The XX and James Blake. However, I agree with Cummings’ conclusion, even if we are on different sides of the issue:

If we want to have a real discussion about R&B—where it’s at, where it’s going, who is doing it right, who is doing it weird, and who is really not doing it at all no matter what the critics say—let’s talk about all of these artists.

For some (I think Cummings included), the problem is that there is more traditional R&B being passed over in favor of these genre-defiers. My main problem with “hipster R&B” and “PBR&B” is that they denigrate the music without actually describing the sound. “Hipsters” and “PB&R” give a mise en scène separate from the music, and as limiting as genre classifications can be, shouldn’t they at least focus on the music?

Frank Ocean’s Nostalgia, Ultra is brash and inventive, in an entirely different way than the rest of the Odd Future crew. Apart from the “Hotel California” and “Electric Feel” samples (“American Wedding,” “Nature Feel”), the compositions are original and run the gamut from sweeping ballads (“Strawberry Swing”) to soulful throwbacks (“Lovecrimes”).


From The Weeknd (the mysterious Abel Tesfaye) comes House of Balloons, which owes as much to xx as it does to So Far Gone. The downtempo mixtape finds Tesfaye crooning about hip hop trappings in a way that feels more natural than when done by emo rappers. The weeping guitar line and punchy drum and bass combo of “The Morning” are representative, but one hopes Tesfaye has another “What You Need” up his sleeve: whatever you call it, music needs songs that dark and sexy.


Download: Frank Ocean – Nostalgia, Ultra
Download: The Weeknd – House of Balloons