Thursday, August 25, 2011

REVIEW// The Weeknd: Thursday

First off, I love this album cover. I know I say this about loads of records but I really do think the art for 'Thursday' is quite well done. Secondly, I'd be surprised if you haven't heard of The Weeknd, because the hype has been building, ever since his free mixtape, 'House of Balloons'. Following in the same tradition, this album has been available to download free of charge. Wandering off on a tangent, I've just realised I've been spelling the artist name with an 'e'. Why people have to be difficult, I'll never know. The guy in question though is Abel Tesfaye, a 'contempory R&B' musician whose work forms a trilogy. 'House of Balloons' was the first, 'Thursday' is the second, and 'Echoes and Silence' is the final installment, dropping sometime this autumn. In terms of 'Thursday' though, there's still those things that annoyed me from Abel's previous work. The lyricism and delivery of them. The lyrics don't do anything for me at all. That and their delivery take away from the music throughout this album, just like they did on 'House of Balloons'. While the beats and backing tracks to the songs here aren't bad at all, the voice ruins it. Talking about days of the week and sex and drugs is bad enough, but when he sings them with such a high pitched tone, it makes those problems worse. Often, Tesfaye goes into these self-indulgent wails and arrogant high notes lathered in unnecessary effects. Frankly? I didn't want to listen again. 'Thursday' just doesn't work with me at all I'm afraid.
    Opening this nine track record is 'Lonely Star'. Steering away from vocals and lyricism, which I've had enough of talking about already, the intro to this number rocks. At first, crackling static backs a sampled voice and a piano melody. Sure enough however, a strange and unpleasant wail interrupts the promising start, and I can't help but complain. A pitch drop leads into the bulk of the song, which talks about his 'baby' and how she can 'have it all' and 'be a star'. Now, I'm not picking these lyrics from different sections of the track. They're all from one line, which should give you some indication of their quality. A track filled with yawn-inducing verses, the next eight aren't much better, if better at all. A relatively stark ending in which Abel lists the days of the week marks the start of 'Life of the Party'. The word 'party' hints at what the lyrics are about, so I won't go into them. The bass here's pretty nice, even threatening in their throbbing progression. This contrasts fantastically with one of the better introductions on 'Thursday'. The title track prowls, eerie as it emerges from the mist of an era long past. Then Abel has to ruin it yet again with talk of Wednesday and love. If shouting 'give me a break' was audible up in California, I would definitely shout it. I don't get why he couldn't have written anything more imaginable!
    I can't help feeling as though I'm going to go over the same things as I cover the next six tracks. 'The Zone' starts with some stupid wailing and a basic beat before Drake contributes. While it's a bit of variety, it doesn't lift the album out of the pit it's clawed its way into. 'The Birds' is split into two parts, the first off which is my personal favourite out of the nine tracks, which isn't really saying anything. The drum beat does two things for me. It carries the beat fantastically, and gives me a more prominent element to focus on other than the vocals. Which do, in the very end, steal the song's glory. Stupid wavering in his words just sound ridiculous, even when you label them experimental or avant garde. 'Part Two' is more of the same, be it with no drum beat and a couple of nice samples. 'Rolling Stone' has a nice catchy guitar beat and 'Gone' has some worthwhile synths, but the closing track, 'Heaven or Las Vegas' works well with it's rock-orientated feel.
    Overall, the beats, production and structure of most of the songs here are solid, but the lazy lyricism and 'I'm the best vocalist ever' singing lets that down. I'm left rather down heartened but not disappointed. While the polish has increased with The Weeknd's latest release, nothing much else has changed. I for one won't be returning to Abel Tesfaye anytime soon, but if you want to give it a whirl, listen to 'The Birds Part 1' below, then download it for free over here. Vocally and lyrically however, I'd set your expectations low.