Monday, December 14, 2015

Report to the Dance Floor : The Weeknd's "Beauty Behind the Madness"

I think we know that pop music is my favorite palate cleanser to start the day off with before I spend the rest of the day listening to blacksludgepostdeathcrust metal. So my interest in Abel Makkonen Tesfaye should not be a great surprise as he is darker than your average r&b singer  and has been known to sample both Siouxsie and the Cocteau Twins, his drug use might explain for this taste in music, but whatever the case since it's time to look at the years best pop/electronic albums of the year, we need to give his 2015 album a glance under the sonic microscope. The album opens with a very passionate wink to another addict...Michael Jackson. The fuzz of the guitar being run through the intro sets things apart from the Great Gloved One, but the cadence of the melody would not sound out of place on the "Bad" album, carrying a similar steamy power as "Dirty Diana" but with less rock aspirations. British singer Labirinth joins up to take the second verse of "Losers" which doesn't get really dancey until after his verse. Which brings up one element of this album that bears mentioning, thanks to Swedish pop producer Max Martin, the arrangements on this album veer from the typical pop formula. The other part of the equation in as to what draws me in for repeat listens is the smart gangsta slant to the lyrics that works for me where his idol R. Kelly failed. "Tell Your Friends" leads the pack in this regard, where is "never rocking white he's like a racist" the idea of a party is "dropping dope dimes on some coke lines, getting head all night cumming four times" but being a gentle man he does ask his play mate if she would like to smoke a pound and do an ounce before getting dick and telling her friends about it. But delivering this in a very sensitive Michael Jackson really knocks this out of the park. Another more NSFW ode to what he does "Often" follows this one it has some drugged out witch house tones haunting it. "the Hills" is the song that got me onboard happens to be the same song he is getting sued for sampling from a horror, so that makes perfect sense as to why I would like it. Some of the more sappy elements of r&b even when filtered through his hyper sexual lense still can bog down songs like "Acquainted" which even after a few listens to see if it would grow me doesn't have the power found in some of the albums other hooks. The big radio hit "Can't Feel My Face" has it's merits even though being a little too happy for me with its funked up disco swagger. "Shameless" is one song I haven't really spent much time with, the vocal is strong, but like a few of the other songs it can be a little repitious and the track backing it doesn't have the same experimental darkness creeping into the corner of its eye. Lyrically its one of the album's bi-polar moments, either he's a pimped out playa or hopeless romantic, while I'm getting married in a few weeks going to show conversions can happen, in the tug of war his pimp side is lyrically more interesting.Like Ellie Goulding , whose album I have but don't feel it nesscessary to review, he also earned a place on the 50 Shades of Gray soundtrack, if you are familiar with my lifestyle work in Cvlt Nation, you can understand why I would think the movie is a joke, and yes I read the book before passing judgement. The string driven waltz is well done, I don't think's the album's strongest moment even though I like the falsetto passage. The very MJ influence "In the Night" still works on today's pop radio and I would like to hear a stronger dance remix, even though the chorus to this song gets the job done. "As You Are" is more of a ballad even with the beat behind it. Lyrically we are back to the bi-polar tug of war, he has handed in his pimp card for this one, in someways it reminds me of Twin Shadow. Things get real on the blues tinged "Dark Times" that Ed Sheeran" who looks too much like Bilbo Baggins for me to take seriously if I was going to watch play this song live, but I did not know what he looked until I heard the lyrics, it hits home for me as it reminds me of many a morning after during by drug days, so I applaud the writing. "Prisoner" might have Lana Del Rey on it , but is not any more compelling than a Dido b-side. The ballad"Angel" closes out the album and is another song I haven't give a ton of time, I do like the big 80s feel to it. Even if it's not the song that has the Cocteau Twins sample it does have a hint of their sound. Maty Noyes adds vocals to the song as well. Its easy for me to round this one up to a


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