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Review: The Weeknd’s Beauty Behind The Madness

The latest masterpiece from The Weeknd is out. I take a first listen.

“Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go anywhere”. When The Weeknd dropped Kissland in 2013, this was the line that was all over Tumblr ,Twitter and Instagram. This year, Beauty Behind The Madness has got us all singing, “I hope you find somebody to love”, the haunting closer to the album from the track Angel. If that wasn’t a prerequisite to the gear shift that is Abel’s latest album, I don’t know what is. Fasten your seatbelts.

If you haven’t listened yet, the OFFICIAL Leak of the album released by Abel is on YouTube here. 

It’s clear from the first few bars of Real Life that this is a step up from the Kissland album. The depth of levels in the song is stronger, less reliant on the bassline and uses the bassline, drums, violins and the electric guitar to create an all-encompassing experience. Use noise cancellation headphones for your first listen: Beauty Behind The Madness shows musical progression with unflinching confidence.

The album really changes gears in several places and its really fresh on the ears. The change from Tell Your Friends (produced with Kanye West, fyi) to Shameless is a total switch.

80s Influences

The electric guitar really shines through this whole album. 80s  influences started to come through Kissland on tracks such as Wanderlust (which references 1983 track ‘Precious Little Diamond’) and Odd Look, which was created with Kavinsky, who is well known for his 80s eletro sound. It really comes into its own on Beauty Behind The Madness on tracks such as Can’t Feel My Face (which we knew already) and In The Night.

I’m sure I’m not the only one to draw comparisons to Michael Jackson, one of the biggest stars of all time let alone the 80s, that much is obvious. For me, the track that really shows the MJ influences is In The Night. The way he sings and snaps the words short really reminded me of Michael.  Stereogum writes a whole essay comparing the artists and its bang on the money. You can read it here.

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The Ongoing Dialogue: Triology – Kissland – BBTM

As for the storytelling, which is always strong with The Weeknd, we still have the melancholic frame of drugs, those girl and trouble with connecting with the rest of the world.

The Weeknd Dialogue 

What I love about this album is that we see big crescendos in songs like Real Life, but Shameless is more stripped back, acoustic in the first verse and then builds to a point, which reminds me of some of his early songs. In terms of a dialogue, I drew comparisons with Til Dawn/Here Comes The Sun from Trilogy.

As a reminder, Til Dawn/Here Comes The Sun is The Weeknd’s account of a (taken) girl he is sleeping with and is making observations of. He talks about her shame, her denial, that she always runs back to him when thing go wrong with her man. He is callous, but the fact that he notices such details about her “you wash your neck now I know your routine” shows some depth of caring:

Cause unlike you I got nothing to hide
I don’t pretend to have any shame
I got a box we could put all your lies in
Until the end of days

You know that I will be a call away
The call you make when you’re all alone
And I know that I will always be the one
You repent when you are done

With that in mind, take a look at the Chorus from Shameless

I don’t wanna hurt you but you live for the pain
I’m not tryna say it but it’s what you became
You want me to fix you but it’s never enough
That’s why you always call me cause you’re scared to be loved

But I’ll always be there for you, I’ll always be there for you
I’ll always be there for you, girl I have no shame
I’ll always be there for you, I’ll always be there for you
I’ll always be there for you, girl I have no shame

Sounds like a continuation of a story to me. There are also depths of comparisons to be taken from XO/The Host:

If they don’t let you in you know where to find me, cus if you wanna go again you can always call me

This is another thing I love about the album – each one shows a key progression in The Weeknd’s technique, but the story continues on from his earliest work.

These are just some opening ideas – what’s did you think of the album?

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