Tuesday, September 8, 2015

some thoughts on Beauty Behind the Madness

Beauty Behind the Madness (2015)
The Weeknd

Part of what makes The Weeknd interesting is this commitment to this disaffected persona that Abel Tesfaye puts forth in his albums.  I know nothing about what Tesfaye is like in real life, but as The Weeknd, he's forever aloof, staring into the middle distance as a wild party rages around him, doing drugs as a muscle memory, half-heartedly eating pussy.  It was thrilling, in a way, to see something so bleak in R&B, a genre that had long been known for sexy slow jams to fuck to, but that thrill was far from sustainable.  Nihilism rarely is.

And now The Weeknd is back with more dead-eyed hedonism in Beauty Behind the Madness, but something is different this time around.  This album, while certainly much more pop-ready and radio-friendly, has an insidious quality that lurks beneath its sexual party beats and catchy hooks.  Perhaps the bleakness that pervaded The Weeknd's earlier albums and EPs came from the fact that he knew that what he was doing – the partying, the drugs, the meaningless sex – was going nowhere, that maybe he knew he deserved better, that you definitely deserved more from him.  In Beauty Behind the Madness, The Weeknd has given up, resigning himself to this life of empty decadence and deciding that this is simply who he is now – unapologetic, inconsiderate, openly disdainful.  The Weeknd of Beauty Behind the Madness does not eat pussy.

The strength of Beauty Behind the Madness comes from this heel turn from a known heel.  Nihilism may not have a lot of mileage, but it's to Tesfaye's credit that he put together a fresh new step in his persona's downward spiral.  Beauty Behind the Madness presents The Weeknd as someone who's tired of feeling bad for himself, tired of apologizing.  This is The Weeknd as someone whose self-actualization has revealed that underneath all that pained introspection is just a bad person.

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