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Written Before Listen

Right when the new year begins, The Weeknd brings an album. The Weeknd is one of the biggest names in music and for a good reason too. He’s a good singer with some good artistic qualities to it. I loved the promotional single for this album “Take My Breath” and I hope he is able (no pun intended) to expand with that sound so without further ado, let’s get into it.


The Weeknd usually gets some of the best production in the game. From the Illangelo produced Trilogy and the Max Martin heavy “After Hours”, The Weeknd knows how to make accessible music while sounding unique in the realm of pop. Alongside the return of Max Martin, we have synthesizers brought to you by Oneohtrix Point Never himself, Daniel Lopatin. There are also some production contributions from Abel himself. With that being said, I think the mixture of pop tropes, vintage synthesizers, and atmospheric and rhythmic drums is a great combo for The Weeknd. The song “Less Than Zero” has a lot of Max Martin in it but the song “Starry Eyes” has a lot of say from OPN. Other producers show up like Calvin Harris on “I Heard You’re Married” but most of it is organized by the three names I mentioned earlier. What I will say is that sometimes at the tail end of the album, the production dies down with excitement but other than that, I think this album is well produced.


One problem I sometimes have with The Weeknd’s music is how direct he is with his influences. It's not a huge problem but it usually is something that brings down a Weeknd album. For example, This album takes a lot from three artists in particular. The songs “Take My Breath”, “Sacrifice” and “Out Of Time” are super Daft Punk inspired and immediately so. Don’t get me wrong, I love those songs but I want my first thought to be “oooh this song goes hard” and not “oooh I like this, it’s very Daft Punk inspired” and that thought happened three straight times. Another artist he takes a lot from on this album is 808s era Kanye West. The last one he takes a lot from is Michael Jackson but everyone knows that at this point. Don’t get me wrong, I like the influences he uses and I usually like the way he uses it, but sometimes it’s too much.


One thing I will give Abel is his ability to corporate different styles in his music. The song “Gasoline” is like an 80s alternative new wave song with cold atmospheres and disco aesthetics. The song “Take My Breath” has the vibe of an extended dance cut but the synths are straight out of an Italian Disco track. The song “Sacrifice” is like a mixture of funk-rock, house music, and a dash of new wave. The song “Out Of Time” is like a mixture of a smooth soul track, a lounge-y 80s pop track, and Japanese city pop. “Best Friends” is a pure synth wave with some influences from EDM and R&B. Abel is all over the place on this album and that is kind of necessary for the album.


In interviews for this album, Abel said this album “plays like listening to a kind of adult contemporary radio station as you sit in a traffic jam in the tunnel, only the tunnel is purgatory and the light at the end of the tunnel is death.” I don’t know about you but that’s dope, but it does have cons to it. The genre “adult contemporary” itself was never a genre Ioved, but what The Weeknd does is far from what I thought adult contemporary was. (As a side note, now they know the concept, the cover makes so much more sense). The Weeknd makes music that is more in a synthpop direction for this album and lyrically, the concept is confusing but the concept idea is cool and the aesthetics of it are perfected, but some things needed work for sure.


Alongside some derivative points and an in cohesive concept, I think The Weeknd rushed this release somewhat. I think his massive success of After Hours made The Weeknd try quicker to follow up. Let’s not forget that After Hours came 4 years after “Starboy”, this album didn’t even take 2 years. I wasn’t expecting him to follow up After Hours with something better, but even after the first listen, I was like “Yeah….this is not as good as After Hours”, but with that being said it’s still a strong release from him.


I liked this, I did thoroughly like and enjoy this. I liked a lot of the songs on this and some of the ideas brought to the table were original, creative and nostalgic. I also heard that this is part of a new trilogy, so I hope this is not all we get here and I hope the other two records are stronger this time around.



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