Album Review: The Weeknd - Beauty Behind The Madness

Five years ago, Abel Tesfaye was an enigma. Cultivating a persona that mystified audiences and critics alike, his first release, House of Balloons, was a beautifully composed mixtape of alt R&B mired in hedonistic self loathing. Since 2010, he’s supplemented House of Balloons with two accompanying tapes to complete Trilogy, released a major label debut, and most interestingly, managed to worm his way into mainstream pop appeal without giving up the dark integrity that put him on the map. Collaborating with a variety of contemporary pop stalwarts from Sia to Ariana Grande, and even managing to soundtrack 50 Shades of Grey, The Weeknd has transitioned from being the hipster figurehead for coked up sex to an artist that manages to stealthily tread the line of what’s acceptable to play on Top 40 radio. With Beauty Behind The Madness, The Weeknd sets his sights on melding his signature gloom with a more universally accessible sound.

Elements you’ve become accustomed to with Abel are still here, partly due to longtime collaborator Illangelo still spearheading the majority of production. Certain tracks have an irresistibly catchy ability to soar, there are a variety of instrumentals that effectively blend traditional elements of soul, rock, and pop with his alternative R&B vibe. Tracks like the Kanye West produced Tell Your Friends, or the acoustic guitar backdropped Shameless, are wonderfully accompanied by Abel’s falsetto. His ability to effortlessly croon over sixty-five minutes of music while still managing to sound interesting and compelling is a testament to just how much of a draw his voice is. On tracks with a much heavier pop inflection and a more upbeat tempo, like the chart topping Can’t Feel My Face, Abel is convincingly adept at adapting to just where he needs to be. The general allure of Abel’s vocals, in combination with a wider variety of sound at his disposal, leads to Beauty Behind The Madness being a much more absorbing offering than the aforementioned Kissland.

The biggest pitfall of the record however, falls on a number of instances of weak songwriting. Abel’s always been characterized by the relative romanticism that comes with excess, the music plays like a contemplative existential hangover. The draw of being thrust into a world of overindulgence that you’re only privy to if you manage to run with a select circle, doesn’t gel as smoothly when its combined with a more approachable and inclusive sound. The songwriting works on previous efforts like Trilogy, precisely because of the ethereal tone. Tracks like Losers, As You Are, and Acquainted come off as run of the mill generic pop songwriting. While Tesfaye is still just as menacing and depraved as ever, it’s not as convincing when it’s shared on a record with songs that come off as the antithesis of what he represents.

The album might not arrive at the pop genre shifting heights of Michael Jackson or Prince that Abel was aiming for; but it's a valid effort and a well intentioned attempt at combining his aesthetic with a reach for global stardom. Abel five years ago isn't necessarily a far cry from who he is now, he's still who we've come to expect, he's just set his sights on world domination, even if he just falls short.

15 comments

  1. Moshe 1 February, 2019 at 10:12 Reply

    I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this
    post was good. I don’t know who you are but certainly you’re
    going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already ;) Cheers!

  2. gamefly free trial 6 May, 2019 at 09:58 Reply

    Heya i am for the first time here. I came across
    this board and I find It really useful & it helped me
    out a lot. I hope to give something back and aid others like you helped me.

  3. minecraft download 7 May, 2019 at 18:17 Reply

    Hey there! I’m at work surfing around your blog from my new
    iphone 3gs! Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and
    look forward to all your posts! Carry on the outstanding work!

  4. g 12 May, 2019 at 06:11 Reply

    You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter to be actually something
    which I think I would never understand. It seems too complicated and very broad
    for me. I am looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!

  5. g 14 May, 2019 at 00:42 Reply

    Excellent goods from you, man. I have understand your stuff previous to and you are
    just too great. I actually like what you’ve acquired here, really like what you are saying and the way in which you say it.
    You make it entertaining and you still take care of to keep it sensible.
    I can’t wait to read much more from you. This is
    actually a terrific web site.

  6. minecraft download mojang 14 May, 2019 at 18:01 Reply

    Hello there, I think your site could be having internet browser compatibility problems.
    Whenever I take a look at your blog in Safari, it looks
    fine however, when opening in IE, it has some overlapping issues.
    I simply wanted to provide you with a quick heads up!
    Aside from that, excellent blog!

  7. free minecraft download 18 May, 2019 at 01:53 Reply

    Simply wish to say your article is as astounding.
    The clarity in your submit is just cool and i could
    think you’re knowledgeable in this subject. Well along with
    your permission let me to snatch your RSS feed to stay up to date with imminent
    post. Thank you a million and please keep up the enjoyable work.

Leave a reply