It wasn’t long ago that not a single soul had a clue as to who Abel Tesfaye was – there were a few things milling around the internet that introduced him as The Weeknd but no one knew exactly what to make of him as an artist. Then he dropped the free mixtape, ‘House Of Balloons‘, and it definitely made an impression.
Almost instantly, he was snapped up by Universal along with his record label, XO. Then, as mysterious as his name is curious, he dropped ‘Trilogy‘. A three-part album filled with thirty songs. Yes, you read that right. Thirty. In this day and age when artists seem to be releasing less content with less quality, The Weeknd dropped an album that would reshape minds, change perspectives and fool the listener into believing that Michael Jackson had risen from the dead, got an attitude and let out genuine emotions that had been pent-up inside him for twenty-two years. And don’t you dare think “oh yeah, well quantity not quality, blah blah blah”. Hush. Read the following and then reconsider everything you think you know about soulful music.
The album is broken down into three parts, one for each disc; House Of Balloons, Thursday and Echoes of Silence. Each one as good as the next, continuing to blow the mind with his vocal capability that seems only possible from the truly gifted. This man is gifted. He knows what notes to play alongside the lyrics that so beautifully roll off his tongue with what seems to be the least amount of effort possible.
Part One – ‘House Of Balloons’, starts the album with strong synths harmonically played in the background in the form of ‘High For This‘ that after a lengthy build up, drops into a dubstep-esque beat – with not too little bass that it begins weak, but not too heavy that it’s a turn-off. The track rolls together, building up a strong breakbeat as it goes on, promising much more to come in the following tracks. The Weeknd’s lyricism pulls poignant harmonies together with standalone lines that are supported by such a deep background, and it flows straight into ‘What You Need‘, a short but sweet track that makes the listener float on it’s ambience and fall head first in love with his voice.
Short but sweet may not give the song justice – yes it’s a three minute track, but sweet isn’t apposite with poetic lyrics and asphyxiated vocals teasing the listener. But, leaving no time to linger, it continues straight into ‘House of Balloons / Glass Table Girls‘ with peculiar loops that somehow work perfectly. This one’s really melodic, with the feeling of a G.O.O.D Music beat, just broken down slower and made with a more attentive and ominous hook. Suddenly, halfway through, the track breaks down into a much deeper beat with a whirring remix of the original beat in the background. The Weeknd also showcases his talent of lightly rapping with well-suited bars over a beat that he has complete control over, changing it at every four bar with different samples and loops.
‘The Morning‘ is a remarkable piece of work, which may not follow on or flow from the previous track as much as prior tracks, but highlights the diversity he has, using slow, ambient synths to create a completely different atmosphere and backdrop, with a distant guitar riff sampled that leads into a strong breakdown beat.
‘Wicked Games‘ starts with a voice that could send a thousand ships sailing and a million eyes crying. Genuine heartfelt sentiment is put into this one and you know exactly what he’s trying to say and how. The Weeknd is simultaneously pleading for his lover to admit her feelings for him but also rejecting any reciprocal feelings, wanting to show these scars he has and hoping she’ll accept him. Or draw your own conclusion, it is very much up to the listener. The harmonies are tight, vocally reaching new heights and challenging the listener to sit down and pay attention, especially after a slow and formal introduction to what he feels. As the track goes on, the vocals improve, proving as a vocalist that he’s got more to give, but… he is still holding something back, The Weeknd wants you to pay attention and listen to the stories he has to tell. Through the chorus he pushes this concept and his limits but still, in a perfect harmony, combines his soulful tones with lyrics that speak volumes. The song tails off as it started with an outpouring of emotion that the listener doesn’t want it to end, but unfortunately, it does.
In a majestic way, it simply carries to the next song – ‘The Party & The After Party‘. It starts with a simple yet enticing melody, with synths playing the background whilst The Weeknd layers the track perfectly with his angel-like vocals, and then the beat drops in bang on time, justifying the build up perfectly. The tempo switches up and down as more is added to the song before breaking down to the switch up of beats. The second part of the song, ‘The After Party‘, mirrors the original beat, yet slower with a stronger ambience which gives him more of a chance to put his voice across which lifts the song and chills the listener. This then leads to a slow wind down, and as the song gets slower the guitar riff that has been present throughout the entire song becomes stronger, accompanying the backing vocals perfectly. Being over seven minutes long some may say it’s just a filler, but no! Reject that opinion! Then the final note plays, and it is apparent that this is perfection, leading straight into the next song on the exact same note with a distant echo. ‘Loft Music’ certainly elevates the mood, the beat starts in the best way, if not a little corny/Young Money-esque with a high filtered vocal over a typical clap, but instead of it being present throughout which would ruin the song, through the verses it’s reduced and played down adding greater emphasis to the lyrics. The chorus is executed perfectly, lapping into the following verses with breakdowns of the beat recurring constantly and then leading to the centre point of the song, where once again, everything is slowed down and the ambience increases. Feel high yet?
‘Twenty Eight’ is one of those songs that speaks to the listener from the first piano note played, with The Weeknd building up his vocals slowly, before hitting a high note that is unobtainable by most without auto-tune. The track continues to tell a story as he carries on pushing his point across, but the chorus may seem a bit repetitive after a couple of listens. Just sayin.
Part Two – “Thursday” begins with ‘Lonely Star’ which starts bizarrely, with a curious, childlike sample in the background before The Weeknd drops a good breakbeat with simple drumming and clap. This is just before warning the listener, with an extremely high voice, about the temptations there to lead you astray in the industry. The chorus and bridge tie in perfectly with each other before once again leading into the strange, childlike sample to end the track. ‘The Zone’ is another ominous track, with echoes and reverbs bouncing off each other to allow The Weeknd’s incredible harmonies to really take centre stage. This continues throughout, with his lyricism reminiscent of Frank Ocean’s ‘Novacane’, but a distant guitar is once again heard, slowly plucking away at the heartstrings of the listener. Drake then drops in to say hi. Normally the reader would expect a torrent of abuse right about [here]. But, strangely enough, the kid does well. It seems the more that “Drizzy” distances himself from his Young Money acquaintances, his flows get better, as does his bars, refraining from talking about how much money he has and how many women want to fornicate him by actually putting something authentic into the short verse he gives. He keeps a good pace with bars that speak volumes.
‘The Birds Pt. 1’ is fantastic. Utterly and truly fantastic. The mood is completely shifted on the second part of the album by this military-like drum beat with vocals that manage to raise the bar for the remainder of the album, with high notes thrown out here and there, followed by a simple yet catchy bridge, warning the ladies that they really don’t know what they’re getting into if they fall in love with him. Falling in love with a voice like this though is easy as hell. The ending of the song is usually a favourite part for most, a simple acoustic riff being played and over the top of this is a wavy voice that flickers between notes like a bulb in a brothel.
‘Gone’ proves to be another near perfect track, using different effects on the vocals that constantly change the mood of the song, such as the fast paced, upbeat bridge before completely slowing down for the chorus. The breakdown midway through the song is nothing special though, and doesn’t exactly keep the listener on the edge of their seat. ‘Rolling Stone’ starts abruptly with a strong rocky guitar riff, before completely fooling the listener and dropping into an acoustic version, which displays his beautiful vocal abilities. This track is easily a favourite for most. Rolling Stone usually refers to smoking weed and popping pills, and this track definitely conveys the feeling of tripping balls alongside this amazing man. The soft guitar plays throughout as The Weeknd’s voice carries through the airwaves and teases the eardrums. He constantly reaches high points before dropping down an octave to entice the listener and carry on this high that he seems to be on throughout the entire two and a half hour long album.
Part Three – “Echoes of Silence” doesn’t meet the high bar set for himself as opening track ‘Valerie’ seems uneventful and really quite boring but, as Big HOV would say, on to the next one. Now ‘D.D’, simple name, is a cover of Michael Jackson’s ‘Dirty Diana’ and is an absolute gem. Yeah. Remember what was said about The Weeknd being reminiscent of Michael Jackson but with an attitude? This is it. The song begins with an airy, ethereal intro before opening with the classic lines and you have to check you’re still listening to the right album. The octaves, the pitch and the notes are all hit with precision and perfection but when it turns to the chorus a hard bassline drops to accompany a perfect cover with as much flare and charisma as the King himself. It cannot be stressed how incredible this song is, if there was ever an artist to honour MJ’s memory, this is him.
‘Same Old Song’ is most people’s favourite track on the album, filled with irony, harmony, melody and perfected vocals. The beat is layered with a small humming voice and the strumming of a rock guitar, this allows The Weeknd to make his mark with his vocals and lyricism. He goes on to tell a story of how people doubt you until you make it, and then they all want to be your best friend, applicable to most situations, no matter what your career is. This song seems to speak one of the loudest amongst others, the listener can feel the emotion pouring through his voice and on the notes that he holds at high points for such a long time. So much feeling and pain was never thought to be put into a song, but once again The Weeknd surpasses all expectations and breaks barriers each time the chorus carries and flows into the next verse, each one more powerful than the last. Just for a laugh, Juicy J comes out of nowhere for the last 10 seconds of the song after a heartfelt beat breakdown that floats on a filtered voice. Juicy J then announces, “Listen to that shit man, The Weeknd music make ladies’ panties get wet!” and the listener can’t help but admit after a song like that, it has to be true.
The last track to feature in this review is ‘Next’, and there is no better way to end this on than to honour such a song by simply saying, listen to it yourself, pay attention to the lyrics, think about what he’s saying and has been for the whole of the album and then draw your own conclusions. You will love “Trilogy” even more.
There is not much more to say about this album other than it is a heavyweight contender for album of the