the weeknd’s beauty behind the madness: a five-point review
Here's what you need to know about Abel Tesfaye's new album.
Despite gracing stages across the globe, Abel Tesfaye has still managed to gingerly slide beneath the radar. That was until two major tracks—the Ariana Grande cosigned Love Me Harder and Earned It off the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack—propelled the Weeknd into the greater public's vision. And now here he is on his second studio album, a full-fledged mainstream star. So how does the former prince of darkness handle the spotlight? Rather easily, actually. Here is a 5-point breakdown of what to expect from Beauty Behind The Madness.
The Hits Are All There
Casual fans rejoice! Most of the reasons why you started rocking with The Weeknd are available here for your listening pleasure, as the 14-track offering includes a handful of tracks that have been pushing through last year and this year. Earned It unlocks itself from Grey's handcuffs and appears on here, along with The Hills and Can't Feel My Face. The underdog hit Often is also on the album. You won't get that Ariana Grande joint on here, but there are a few other surprises to keep you satisfied on the cameos front.
Abel's Famous Friends
So yes, we know Drake's OVO and The Weeknd's XO crews rolled heavily since Day One, but that VIP list is growing exponentially. Our favorite wild haired artist had the aforementioned Grande nudge, but on Beauty he ups the ante. Take Prisoner, where The Weeknd comes through with his signature woozy vibes, but the party gets pleasantly broken up by Lana Del Rey. Lana slides in with her typical tiparillo stylings, and the pairing works so well. Ed Sheeran pops in for the hyper-soulful Dark Times, where once again the vocals match perfectly. Even Losers with Labrinth is a hit. It's obvious that The Weeknd is very mindful of who he steps in a studio with. Well done.
Darkness In The Light
Now that The Weeknd is the "IT" guy, it would be really easy to switch up his whole style and venture into upbeat territory. That's totally not the case here. While the project harbours accents of pop production, it's still pretty damn depressing. Take In The Night, where Abel's empty bed gets intermittently filled by a stripper with low self-esteem. "She was young and she was forced to be a woman," he sings. "I know that she's capable of anything; it's riveting." There's more on that, like Acquainted, another sort of sad love song. Very on brand for Tesfaye.
Abel On The Beats
The Weeknd has a very heavy hand on the production of this project. And it totally shows, as much of the work is filled with dark crashing synths, which have been something of a signature sound for the XO god. Abel produced eight tracks off Beauty, more than half of the entire project. The rest includes some check ins from Max Martin and a co-production credit from Kanye West on the subdued Tell Your Friends, which is a nice break from the normal Weeknd delivery.
Here we are with Abel Tesfaye on the precipice of his superstardom, and Beauty Behind The Madness is perhaps the perfect way to usher in his grand entrance. While the project harbors a collection of high notes (read: radio-friendly songs), the man known as The Weeknd doesn't compromise his own sonic values in the interest of pandering to his new audience. Sure, it's easy to slide in with the hip crowd when you're the cute lonely boy who just wants to fall in love. And as a sidenote, the drug talk has diminished considerably. But what The Weeknd is achieving with his follow-up studio album is a standard for himself that is totally reachable the next time around. So while Beauty is an idyllic intro to the new life of The Weeknd, it's safe to assume Number 3 will be just as good if he stays true to himself.
Text Kathy Iandoli