Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
If you only heard The Weeknd on the radio, then the song you heard was from this album.
I remember being in a store somewhere when "Feel My Face" came on, and thinking "Are they playing The Weeknd? Are they playing a song by The Weeknd about doing blow until your face goes numb? They ARE." That song was also nominated for a Nickeloden Kids Choice Award because we live in a strange world.
This is also the first time in a reimagined discography that I haven't done anything except change the order of the tracks. I didn't cut anything. I didn't add anything. It's the laziest work I've done, but it's mainly because I think this is a solid album.
I enjoy an album that builds up from nothing before the music and / or the lyrics kick in, which is why I moved Shameless to the beginning of the album. I also imagined it was a single for some reason. While it still has the I Am Awesome And You're A Fool For Not Letting Me Fuck You All The Time, You Suck atmosphere of the previous two albums, but it's more radio friendly, which is in, in some ways, worse. While the refrain is about how he has no shame, he is mainly dragging her for not loving him unconditionally, and, dude, The Weeknd had a lot of work to do before he was capable of non-toxic love. Musically, there's an uncharacteristically great guitar riff out of nowhere near the end of the song.
Real Life is the opening track on the original album, and it serves as a better thesis for the album, as it acknowledges that he is the problem in most of his relationships, which, NO SHIT. Every woman that loved me / oh yea / I seemed to push them away. If the first two albums are to be believed, yuppers.
We echo into Tell Your Friends, which is the bragaddocio My Life As A Rock Star Track, which features, appropriately, Kanye MAGA West. Except it's not in my version. I don't remember if I edited it out, or if this is a glorious accident, but I was waiting for the Kanye bridge, and it ain't there. It's instrumental. Sweet.
The Hills was The Weeknd's first #1 hit, and it's easy to see why it was #1. From the crunchy beginning to the bouncing back and forth between his spoken tenor and falsetto singing. I'm not too amped about having a song with the term "friendzoned" on the album, but people do feel that way. The first time I heard it, I assumed he was coming out as bisexual, Frank Ocean Style. But it's just that he's cheating on people with people who are cheating on people and he's worried that people will find out. Ugh. It's a really catchy and haunting somng about how terrible The Weeknd is.
Speaking of terrible, Earned It (which is not terrible, or I could have cut it) is frome the movie Fifty Shades Of Grey, which is terrible. Oh, but it's about an abusive relationship poorly disguised as BDSM, so putting The Weeknd on that soundtrack makes perfect sense.
In The Night continues the abused love theme, but in this one The Weeknd is telling a third person story. Despite its upbeat tempo and vocals, it reminds me of living at The actual Crooked Treehouse. The downstairs neighbor had a partner with major sexual trauma, who used to scream on a regular basis. I knew there was mental illness involved, but it was several years before I encountered the person who did the screaming while they were doing the screaming. They immediately modulated their volume and profanity usage, and explained why they were always screaming and how it wasn't my neighbor's fault. I don't think you'd understand is something they actually said to me.
I love the hand clapping and spoken vocal quality of the beginning of Losers before the actual beat and effects kick in. As someone with a lifelong distrust of the American Education System, and a fan of lines like Because stupid's next to 'I Love You', this is my favorite set of lyrics on the album. And Labrinth's verse and version of the chorus is fantastic. This is tied for my favorite all-together track with "Can't Feel My Face".
"Losers" drizzles right into Prisoner, which has a perfect Lana Del Ray feature, and a perfect sing-along chorus for people sitting at home, worried about what they're doing with their lives.
Angel is the final track on the original track listing, but it's not heavy enough of a closer for my liking. It's a perfectly good song about hoping his lover can move on, and it's much less toxic than his early stuff. I like it as part of his evolution as a songwriter, but I don't feel like it's an honest ending to this album. I do love Maty Noise on echo background vocals, though.
Acquaintance brings back The Weeknd we know and are critical of. We're back to a woman done him wrong, and him deflecting any blame with his penis.
The piano outro of "Acquaintance" bleeds into the synth waves of Can't Feel My Face, the best #1 dance hit about doing coke I've ever heard (there's way more than you're currently thinking of). The beat is, and I know this is a cliche, but, infectious. And the rising vocals into the shoulder shaking chorus is amazing every time. Of course kids love this song.
I'm not an Ed Sheeran fan. I'm not NOT an Ed Sheeran fan, I just haven't been exposed to him that much. His pop vocals with country guitar pluck combined with The Weeknd's background effects on Dark Times is a perfect haunting album track, and makes me consider checking out his discography, past the hits that have managed to break into my world. The background effects are fairly Zooropa-ish in quality, which I quite enjoy.
As You Are is this albums's Saving A Stripper With Your Dick song. There's no actual stripper, just a "broken" woman, who he's going to fix by taking her as she is. Uh-huh. But will she also accept him as he is? So they can sex all night. Oooof.
Often is a dark closer. Not just because it's a Weeknd slow jam, which is not a love ballad, but a fucking on drugs song, but because it doesn't give him the redemption that he'd have if the album ended on "Angel". He's back in his pattern here. I think, based on the next album, that that's a more honest truth.
The narrative around rock music in the nineties was one of competition. MTV started the decade a brash consumer paradise, shaping the music people would buy by having Carson Daley and screaming teens cheer for the most radio friendly hit while Matt Pinfield whispered of Underground Music that would soon end up on Daley's show, and Kurt Loder would feed us a stream of future Trivial Pursuit info about all the bands inbetween.
I can't say it was a great or glorious time for music, as I'm hugely biased as having been a massive ball of hormones and spending money at the time. It seemed like an exciting time for music. Rock and roll had gone from summertime screaming hair metal of Guns N Roses to the wintry grunge of Nirvana. It was natural music evolution. And hip hop had gone from an autumnal symphony of samples twisted into new sounds to a One Sample Per Song streamlined spring pop fest. Not through natural music evolution, but through lawyers and copyright law. It was during the cultural awareness doldrums between Civil Rights Support and Wokeness, so while I'm sure there must have been a proliferation of articles (many probably rejected by Spin, Rolling Stone, and MTV News) about the racism behind the abrupt change of how artists sampled, due to financial restricitions, I never read them. So I thought the evolution was natural.
By the end of the 90s, MTV was declaring the death of Rock & Roll by pushing boy band pop, and the pop rock of 1970s influenced bands like Smashing Pumpkins. The hip-hop narrative they set was all 1980s (and therefore, also the 1950s) pop flavored nostalgia tracks as Lauryn Hill and The Fugees focused on reliving their adolescence through a more adult lens, and Sean Coombs and Faith Evans crooned about their recently killed peers.
By the time we reached the early 2000s, the joke about "Remember when MTV used to play music videos?" to "Remember when MTV 2 used to play music videos." Everything seemed to revolve around the nascent reality TV revolution that MTV had helped birth. Rock was sullen, and ready to be made fun and poppy again. But that's not really what happened. Instead, Radiohead's Kid A hit, and rock was still sullen and heavy but it sounded slicker. It was a natural less-poppy follow-up to their previous album, OK Computer. But with less narrative, and a focus on the sonic possibilities of rock and roll. It was a necessary shot in the arm to rock music. Not a lot of bands followed suit, but production techniques shifted, and a wider variety of rock started charting again.
What late 90s Radiohead did for rock, the early work of The Weeknd did for hip-hop.
It's not a perfect parallel. Radiohead was allowed to be experimental because they'd already been successful sounding like their peers. They were in their mid-30s and mid-career. The Weeknd was a 21 year old who came out of nowhere (Toronto, or Youtube, depending on your point of view), and he was experimenting with his voice because he hadn't settled into his own yet. And while his lyrics were as problematic towards women as most 21 year old males' are, his production was next level, and his Michael Jacksonesque vocals, occasionally shifted down or slightly up in a more Prince-like fashion than Cher or T-Pain.
The title, and opening track, Odd Look, is actually a remix of a Kavinsky song with The Weeknd rapping over it. Imagine the "Stranger Things Theme" with lyrics about how great he is with women. All you girls tryin to be saints / I'll make you roll with a sinner. It's the same rock and roll lifestyle lyrics from the previous album but with a retro pop hook.
It drops out into the percussive Tears In The Rain, which, surprise, is about how his ex is better off without him. Which, yea. Did you hear what he said about his exes on that last album? Run. The dude has a problem seeing partners as anything more than future song lyrics, and this is coming from a writer who once dated ten guys and referred to them, to their faces, not by their names, but by the order in which he met them. They all feel the same / adjust to the fame indeed.
The Professional sunrises out of "Tears In The Rain" and eventually hits its thesis in the breakdown. I love /You love / This love / We're professional / I know /You know /We're sophisticated /At lovin', lovin', lovin', lovin', lovin', lovin', lovin', lovin' / Lovin', lovin', lovin', lovin', lovin', lovin', lovin', lovin' / Lovin', lovin', lovin', / We're professional at lovin', lovin', lovin', lovin', lovin' / Lovin', lovin', lovin', lovin', lovin', lovin', lovin', lovin' / Lovin', lovin', lovin'.
We go back to an 80s computer sound for Gone, with the drums and bass knocking at the door throughout the whole song. Lyrically, we're still partying and making questionable decisions with women, but in this narrative, The Weeknd is the one fucked up, not the woman he's trying to go home with. Pr...og...ress? The music gets really spare in the middle, and stays that way for a deliberately uncomfortable amount of time.
Birds (Part 1) marches through the sparsity. With The Weeknd resuming his "don't fall in love with me" narrative. He's a really bad boyfriend, ladies. Really. Really bad. Probably worse than Prince. Probably worse than Freddy Mercury.
Ugh. It bothers me how much I like The Weeknd's music, given how utterly hedonistic and destructive his lyrics are, particularly towards women. Life Of The Party is another drugs rule my life, but let's fuck anyway, song. I like it as the middle of the Birds sandwich. It's still part of his warning, this way. Not just a red flag, but a red flag with a picture of a skull and crossbones roofying your drink.
It's actually surprising that Birds (Part 2) isn't already on a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack. It has the echoey surf guitar foundation, unnecessary violence, and liberal use of the N word. Really, all it needs to do is smack a paparazzo and give a self-righteous interview about it, and it could be Tarantino's personal theme song.
The screeching birds lead us into the Drake drenched part of the album as The Weeknd tells us what he Lives For. He got sober for an entire day to write this song about kissing bitches in the club. Sigh. Good to see that sobriety has him branching out of his comfort zone. Hey, this is the shit that he lives for. And what Drake lives for, too, I guess.
While the guitar plucks its way to the end of "Live For", the drums and The Weeknds haunting wails being us into The Zone. Drake says Whoa, all these broken hearts on that pole / Man, if pole dancing's an art, you know how many fuckin' artists I know? Yea, we get it Degrassi TNG. You're hard now. You've been hard the whole time.
There comes a time in a man's life /Where he must take responsibility / For the choices he has made / And there are certain things that he must do / Things that he must say / Like I love you / And I need you / I only want you / And nobody's going to know if it's true, ooh. Is this the bridge to a future, less objectifying Weeknd? We'll probably have to wait until the next album to see.
We opened up with a "Stranger Things" vibe. And that's how Pretty begins but it then becomes more like a track from the Natural Born Killers soundtrack. The closing verse (which is in French) gives the impression that this album is not about current issues, but The Weeknd looking back at their adolescence, which is slightly better. We were all terrible in high school.
I wasn't sure which discography I was going to do after Queen. I kind of wanted to do Gomez, but that felt too similar. I debated tossing up a couple of Best Of albums of artists that only have about one disc worth of material that I like. Then, I realized I had a pretty great Michael Jackson discography. But I was missing the Jackson 5 era, and wanted to take some time listening through that material before I decided how to divvy it up. But while listening to Jackson, I realized I did have a discography at the ready, The Weeknd!
One of my exes in 2011 was super into the Thursday mixtape so we listened to it quite a bit. But, unlike some of his other obsessions, I really liked The Weeknd, and have bought their albums whenever I hear a new one is released.
This past January, I was out buying a new cell phone when the sales person pointed out that the shoes I was wearing are the same pattern The Weeknd's orange camouflage outfit. We went out for drinks after.
I don't have any bad associations with The Weeknd, the way that there is a major mental hoop one has to jump through to listen to Michael Jackson's music. So I decided to do The Weeknd first!
If you're not familiar with their work, or have only heard their singles, cool. Welcome. This is going to be a mellow, slow journey. If you currently do, or once did any downers, you're probably going to be nostalgic for them in a non-toxic way. If you've been Straight Edge forever, that's cool, there's a bunch of intense, slow love songs in your future. You may get paranoid that you can see The Weeknd gazing through your window at you, Sure, it's a little creepy, but they're not going to hurt you, they're just sad, and staring at you reminds them of something they loved once. It's cool.
A lone bass riff evokes a bit of The White Stripes before the atmosphere drops us in the middle of The Weeknd's sadness. Where were you when I needed you eight months ago? is pretty much a great first line to introduce you to the experience of this album. For real, where were you? The Weeknd is sad, and it's your fault. It's The Same Old Song, which is, thankfully, not some heavily sampled Four Tops remix, but it's just a guy who thinks you've been fucking around on him. But he's not going to judge you too harshly because he has Definitely been fucking around on you. He does want you to rue the day he got famous, though. He's got that Lady Gaga Revenge Fever running through his veins.
There's a lot of Michael Jacksonesque crooning around this (and every other) song, and it quickly gives way to the drumbeat of Montreal. Here, The Weeknd is going to go all Carly Simon on you and let you know that this song is totally not about you, even though it totally could be. He also spends quite a bit of the song singing in French because he's bilingualer than you, and really thinks you should learn another language. His language. Learn to understand him. Though, Happiness exists when you don't know a thing.
Forgive me a little bit of laziness on this section of the album. You know I love to let songs flow into each other. Well, so does The Weeknd. They did a lot of work for me. So, just like on the original album, "Montreal" gives way to The Outside. There's a touch of Seinfeld here, as The Weeknd wants you to show him your ex's moves. Not just any ex. The one you really loved, and the one you lusted for. The Weeknd is going to take that move, work you like a pro, and improve it until you can't live without him. He is going to fuck you all night, baby. Partly because he really loves both you and sex, and partly because the drugs have made it so that he has trouble climaxing. And baby when (he's) finished with you / you won't wanna go outside. Probably because he came on your clothes. He's a mess.
I'm still riding his tracklist, as we segue into XO, where The Weeknd wants you to play The Blame Game about all of your life's problems, as long as the finger doesn't end up pointed his way. Tonight was not his fault. You were both fucked up. He didn't mean to jizz on your favorite shirt. (He) wanna catch you at your best, oh / When your hair's a mess / You look so depressed / And you're filled with regret / And you feel like you gotta go home, oh / 'Cause these nights pass, so much quicker than the days did. He totally loves you at your messiest. Because he's sloppy, too. But he loves you, you great big mess.
If you go to a party and The Weeknd is The Host, maybe bring a friend, and establish some some safe words. He is Super Creeper right now. He's trying to get you to ride it out with his many boys. Um, I don't want to make too many assumptions, but I'm pretty sure his boys got a bunch of rashes that can't be ridden out.
You've been going hard baby, and maybe you should go home. NO, NOT WITH THE WEEKND, no matter what he promises you, it's going to be sketch city. The Initiation has him shifting his voice through some deepening effects. You must be super high if that sounds sexy to you. You're definitely not at a level of consent where you and The Weeknd should still be talking. He definitely shouldn't STILL be telling you to ride it out.
The Fall is just The Weeknd letting you know he's going to blow money on you irresponsibly. Like, his 401K is NONexistent. You're going to get positively wrecked if you go out with him tonight, but he's not going to have enough left over to take a Lyft home tomorrow, so plan accordingly. He does a really good of reconfirming the album feel here, referencing previous songs, and hinting at songs to come. He has set up a whole vernacular for this rapey party scene.
Next does not come with an Aria Grande Thank You. Don't let the sultry piano and the moaning fool you, he's going to do you dirtier than Bieber ever did Grande. He's going to write songs about you where you are nothing but a person who done him wrong. And, again, it's almost definitely not your fault. When you sing this many songs about people who Done You Wrong, then You are the problem, not them. He's only 21 in this song, though, so trust he will get less creepier as he gets older. Prince did. I mean, he never got fully uncreepy, but he got significantly less creepier in his 30s and 40s. Oh, and he's definitely going to tell everyone you're a stripper and he met you in the club. He's Very 21. Yes, I know yes, I know yes, I know yes, I know.
Your honor, in the case of The Weeknd vs. All The Girls He Writes About On This Album, we'd like to present you with the lyrics to his song, Echoes Of Silence. Talk to me baby / Tell me what you're feeling / You say you don't need to go / Don't you pretend you didn't know / How all of this would end up / Girl, I saw it in your eyes / And baby I can read your mind / And expectations were not in sight / You knew that talking dirty to me / On the phone would get me here / 'Cause we both wanted to do this / But I could tell that you were scared / 'Cause you thought there was more to us / But you knew how this would end / It's gonna end how you expected girl / You're such a masochist and I ask why / And you reply/ I like the thrill / Nothing's gonna make me feel this real / So baby don't go home / I don't wanna spend tonight alone / Baby please / Would you end your night with me / Don't you leave me all behind / Don't you leave my little life / Don't you leave my little life. The Defense rests, Your Honor.
The song that propelled me from thinking of doing a reimagined discography of Michael Jackson to this one of The Weeknd is The Weeknd's cover of Jackson's Dirty Diana. It's pretty safe. It has the dark, atmospheric instrumentation of the rest of The Weeknd's album, but the vocals are almost precisely MJ. Usually, I like my covers to do a bit more, but this works out really well. It also lets me put this on work mixes. One of my coworkers like's Michael Jackson's songs, but can't listen to more than one of them, so having well done covers available is super helpful. And, yea, this is another song where a woman is blamed for being promiscuous, even though the singer is clearly a hornball / borderline sex offender. So, right in The Weeknd's wheelhouse.
Climbing out of the end of "Dirty Diana" is What You Need. Don't believe his nonsense about how your ex is what you want but how The Weeknd is what you need. He's clearly delusional. Unless you don't have a ride home from his house (an actual ride, not the kind he sings about), then you don't need a thing from him.
We get a little bit of bright, sunshiney guitar at the beginning of The Morning before THe Weeknd announces that he's fucken gone right now. All that money, the money is the motive, he sings over and over. See? You're just a prop in his song. Get out of there!
Are you ready for the pace to pick up, and everything to really rock out? Well, The Weeknd is too High For This, so don't hold your breath. This is another slow grind song about love. Only this time, he's letting you know that you want to be high before you fuck him, which doesn't seem super consensual.
Ooooh, here's some more upbeat rhythm. House Of Balloons (Glass Table Girls). He is still reminding you that fucking him is better when you're high, which is still problematic as fuck, Mr. The Weeknd. I'm seriously wondering if you aren't the worst lay in the world, and that's why you demand everyone get fucked up, so you can write mean songs about them later. It's Not Cool.
We end the album with some Wicked Games, as The Weeknd reminds you that he never loved you, and you never loved him, either. This whole ... night ? weekend ? month ? year ? was nothing but The Weeknd trying to get his dick wet (and jizz on your shirt, Never Forget). I hope you get over him soon, because trust, he's always been over you, even if he does like the way you dance. There is also something perversely satisfying to hear The Weeknd end the album with the line Even though you don't love me. Bumper humper, you never loved her, either. Time to spit the martyr out of your mouth, cut down on the pill intake, and find something new to write about.