As if releasing three mixtapes in one year isn’t enough of an achievement, Abel Tesfaye – better known as The Weeknd – has managed to evolve as an artist throughout the process, leaving no doubt that each of the mixtapes will reveal fresh revelations and heart wrenching sounds. Seamlessly changing the standards and expectations of modern day R&B, The Weeknd manages to transmit a despondent, haunting feeling to listeners the world over.
Simultaneously giving the impression of having thoroughly ruined his life, the strength that emanates is just as strongly portrayed throughout the nine-track project, and in his song choices. The opening track of the album, for example, is a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Dirty Diana.” Once the initial shock of the surprise passes, it is undeniable that the Weeknd does MJ justice, introducing new elements to the song while all the while keeping it enough the same.
Echoes Of Silence, despite the name, is however less hypnotizing than its predecessors; partially due to its more aggressive sound, with tighter drum samples and tenser vocals. The slight change in subject matter also plays a role; whereas The Weeknd’s previous two projects tended to focus more on sex, drugs and girls, Echoes of Silence is arguably much softer around the edges, seemingly lamenting facets of the above rather than aiming to commit an onslaught of debaucheries.
To this respect, the album is arguably more relate-able to the average listener; something explored in my review of the previous mixtape Thursday. This is both a positive and a negative, as the previous mixtapes enabled listeners to live vicariously through the tales told through the Weeknd’s music, experiencing things we never actually would, simply by listening. Echoes Of Silence on the other hand seemingly simply serves to further cement what we already know, or have already heard. This is particularly evident in tracks the likes of “Next” and “Same Old Song” that explore the complexities of fame. On “Same Old Song” for example, the singer calls out a former flame who is only interested now that he is approaching stardom.
That being said, it would be irrational to believe that anyone or anything can remain unaltered. In the days since House of Balloons first caused a stir the world over, The Weeknd has undoubtedly evolved massively both as a human being and as an artist… a progression that is evident in Echoes of Silence. Although House of Balloons seems to take the ribbon for the best of the three-part set with its stellar production, lyrics and delivery, Echoes of Silence is undeniably more experimental than the previous two offerings. And seeing as these qualities are in fact one of the best things about Mr. Tesfaye and his music, our praise can’t turn into criticism now.
It is rare that an artist so willingly permits a world into his every thought, no matter how dysfunctional. Recently tweeting that he was worried about fans reactions to the album, saying: “I hope they don’t hang me for my decisions on #echoesofsilence.” It seems he needn’t have worried.
Download: The Weeknd – Echoes Of Silence [Mixtape]