REVIEW: The Weeknd - Thursday

Genre: R&B/Experimental
Origin: Toronto, Ontario

Earlier this year, Toronto-based Abel Tesfaye, better known as The Weeknd, gave us a surprising Spring mixtape called House of Balloons - released digitally for free - that provided some heavy R&B with slick production and some pretty undeniable beats. With said elements and a hint of mystery surrounding the release, it may have possibly been some of the best indie R&B of the last year, resulting in word-of-mouth and underground success partially in thanks to the great endorsement from recording artist Drake. Now that we are more than half-way through the year and deep into Summer, The Weeknd has released his latest mixtape called Thursday (without question, released on Thursday, Aug. 18th). Does this new mixtape match the surprise that was House of Balloons?

Let's first take both mixtapes at face value. As stated in my review of House of Balloons, its album cover is decidedly black-and-white, almost as if to lyrically be so explicit that the beats became a hard-putting behemoth of sinful bliss. Thursday is quite the opposite, featuring some kind of color spectrum and three pictures with Polaroid-like quality, and like its brother before it, elements heard on Thursday are further reflected in this imagery. Jumping right into business with "Lonely Star," the beat and key is much brighter than anything found on House of Balloons, as if maybe The Weeknd were going to approach a newer, different direction. "Life of the Party," too, feels like it might be taking what The Weeknd had to offer up before and bring it into more color and light.

Admirable, of course, but as lighter as they are, the more we see the weight of this thing. Once you reach the epic 8-minute "Gone," you might realize something feels less urgent, less applicable, and less special.

It's just as arousing as its predecessor, but it's also less immediate. It still provides the same sleek production quality and Abel taking center stage with similar lyrical themes like overpowering sex and fighting his demons, which is fine, but the idea that this particular sound is more inviting and more accessible doesn't entirely match up. This isn't really a bad thing considering there are (very) good beats found on this thing, but given what Abel has to say and what is now musically in store, I'm more appreciative towards House of Balloons being unwelcoming and a harsher affair, where his marriage of hard-hitting lyrical content and darker beats felt not only appropriate but deeply complex.

Maybe I'm comparing them too much. Maybe there are those of you who have just found Thursday and want to stick solely to this mixtape for review. Well, quite frankly, the true merits of Thursday as its own record remains to be seen on a majority of the tracks. While the beats are good as I previously stated, they often meander into slow tunes that don't really go anywhere, to the point where they may present themselves to be great for having sex to but not for everyday hearing when you're MOST LIKELY going to be listening to it. Tracks like the aforementioned "Gone" and "Thursday" just seem directionless given the stellar quality of the production, and they're just a lot more grounded on slower energy than you'd find on its predecessor. There I go again with the comparison, but can't you tell which one you might want to listen to first?

I digress. The tracks here are still better than a majority of songs being played in today's community, especially two of them. The tracks "The Zone" featuring Drake offers a nice break from The Weeknd's vocal highs and "The Birds" (Parts 1&2) is rather reminiscent of something found on House of Balloons with it's darker aplomb, which gives the listener a better sensibility about where The Weeknd might be going. It's not that the other seven tracks found on here are any less that nature, because these two mixtapes really have been somewhat of an experiment that I'm more than willing to go along with, but at least these couple of tracks offer greater qualities that will make me want to come back to them more often than not.

So the mystery and surprise has somewhat faded now that The Weeknd are making a name for themselves, and that might've helped make House of Balloons a greater affair in comparison, but that hasn't stopped Abel from continuing his line of work. Even if Thursday ends up being more of the same in more ways than one, it just means we have more of The Weeknd to go around, and that isn't a bad thing whatsoever. The excellent couple of tracks and stream-lined flow are enough to warrant a download and, while I might come off as disliking the mixtape overall, it's still better than a great percentage of music floating around these days. After all, it may just be the next addition to Abel's experiment that we hope gives R&B a run for its money on the third mixtape (reportedly out this fall), and we'll be here to listen.

The Weeknd - "The Zone" feat. Drake

The Weeknd - "The Birds Part 2"

Thursday is self-released and is available for free over at their official website.

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