by Andrew Katsiris
Canada has been no stranger to sharing the musical talents of its natives with the world. From infamous pop stars like Carly Rae Jepsen and Justin Bieber to the hip-hop great, Drake, one of the greatest talents the cold North has blessed us with is no other than Abel Tesfaye, a.k.a. the Weeknd. The R&B singer did little to project himself as a pop phenomenon early in his career, accumulating a following online while keeping his identity anonymous. He first performed live in 2011, and since then has increasingly gained popularity in the United States. His first album, originally three free mixtapes, was released in 2012 under the appropriate title, Trilogy, which was followed in 2013 by the less popular album Kiss Land. It seemed the Weeknd was stuck with his devoted fan base and features on bigger artists’ tracks, until he released the out of nowhere pop sensation, “Earned It.” This was the first track off of his third studio album, Beauty Behind the Madness, but at the time held its own on the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack. Abel followed up with the smash-hit, “I Can’t Feel My Face,” and the singer’s rise to mainstream popularity had begun.
Beauty Behind The Madness is not short of the explicit sexual actions and drug use references that the Weeknd has been known for, but that doesn’t keep his pop hits off the radio. His most popular track, “I Can’t Feel My Face,” is in heavy rotation on pop music stations, despite Abel’s confession that the song is about the numbing and euphoric effects he feels while using cocaine, rather than a girl. The track was #1 in the country not too long ago, according to Billboard. While the song has been noted to sound like a Michael Jackson single, the most prominent homage to the King of Pop can be found further into the album. One of my personal favorite songs from the album, “In the Night,” had me taken aback when I first listened to it. I turned to my friend in the passenger seat of my car, who had requested I hand him the aux cord so that he could play said track, shocked that the same artist behind “Wicked Games” was the same one belting out MJ-style vocals that could have passed as the late singer. Needless to say I was impressed.
All in all I’d consider Beauty Behind The Madness to be one of the most unique sounding projects of the year, and although it has already achieved massive mainstream success, there is no need to dismiss it as a cheesy pop album (looking at you, hipster Imagine Dragons fans). The album is available on iTunes, Apple Music, and Spotify for streaming. Some tracks I thought were most notable were “The Hills,” “In the Night,” and “Prisoner (feat. Lana Del Rey).”
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