Since it's all we have left in this quarantine time, we're going to talk about music, with the Weeknd's new album. Even though it's not going to cheer us up, it can make us feel better to talk about music.
The album's context
A break up. Nothing really complicated. The Weeknd and Bella Hadid broke up in august 20q9, after that, the album was coming and the first single, Heartless, was realised on November 27th, a few months later. The album was certainly already being prepared before the break up, but we can't say it didn't have a (big) influence on the album's writing. We could have hoped for an album that maybe wasn't so dark after all when Blinding light was realeased 2 days later. But the two videos that were going with the songs, both very dark, made us understand that this album would be sad, even oppressing maybe, and The Weeknd's uneasiness was starting to show up. We've had a break of 3 months, until the excellent After Hours release on February 19th, coming with a shirt movie even more frightening than the other two (the elevator scene will have shocked us all). And finally, the album release, a month later.
The album's atmosphere
Hard to understand. This is how I would define my first listenings of the project. The album takes time to really start, even if the 5 first tracks are good, it's hard to find one that is really better than the others. From track 3, Hardest to love, the album's level will go crescendo. We have to wait until track 4, Scared to live, to get the first very good song. But this shouldn't distract us from the fact that it's a really dark beginning. The Weeknd's uneasiness slowly shows up, he has a lot of regrets in him, his relationship with Bella, the fact he didn't let her go when he had to, which made her lose her love for him. He also talks about the loneliness hew feeling inside, especially in LA, that he left for Las Vegas where he hoped he could feel home, but he only finds binding lights, hiding the hell where he is, a world with drugs and loneliness. When it comes to the melodies, the beginning of the album is kind of frustrating us. Although, in terms of lyrics and atmosphere, it's a powerful beginning, and it makes us go right into The Weeknd's head. We expect to feel a lot of things by listening this album, and the first 4 songs are actually a really good beginnig.
Then comes Snowchild, track 5, a melancholic break in the album. In this song, we feel The Weeknd's nostalgia, he would like to come back home, in Toronto, he didn't forget where he came from, nor the people that have always been here to support him. In the second part of the track, he takes down his haters, shows his success, and how proud he's of it. But now that he has the success, he wants to go home. Which brings us to track 6, Escape from LA. In this song, we feel The Weeknd's sadness. He wants to leave LA, where he has a lot of memories, love memories especially, and it's also the city where he's earned most of his success, which made him lose control of his life, that's why he wants to leave. This leads him to a state where he doesn't feel anything anymore, and feeling alone, as said in Heartless. And it all brings us to track 8, Faith, one of the bets songs in the album, which perfectly sums up The Weeknd's state of mind. Drug addiction, give it up, go back into it when he feels alone, when he needs support, from his girlfriend, from his fans. And when nothing is fine, go back into drug, until the overdose, and the sirens in the second part of the track, giving us goosebumps. The Weeknd is at the lowest level, so are we, in term of emotions, it's a real slap in the face we're getting. It looks like the perfect time for a happy break, with Blinding Lights and In your eyes.
Even though we want to dance with this two songs, they keep expressing the sadness and the regrets that The Weeknd is feeling. He's been blinded by the fame in Blinding Lights, and in the song In your eyes, he expresses his frustration for being blinded, and for looking elsewhere when the person he loved was doing everything to look fine, to save their relationship, he sees it in her eyes, but he looks elsewhere. In Save your tears, which makes us go back into a sad mood, he's wondering why Bella is so happy without him and he doesn't know why. He wants to explain everything, apologise, but it's too late, because he broke her heart and he's coming back too late to make things up. He tells her to save her tears for another day, because he doesn't deserve them, he's hurt her. After that, in Repeat after me, hes trying to convince her that she's still in love with him, but ends up realizing he's lost her, and doesn't even deserve her tears. This leads us to the last part of the album, including only 2 songs, but also showing all the evolution in The Weeknd's mind.
After hours, the album's last single, sums up The Weeknd's state of mind. Again, he regrets that the one he loves isn't here with him, he feels alone without her, almost given up, as if life was leaving him when he's not with her. He asks her to come back, promises to take care of her, says he's the man he used to be. In the last track, Until I bleed out, he explains he doesn't want to take digs number, he us wants to feel the ground and feel alive too. But he also wants to never feel love again, he wants the woman he loves to get out of his mind and heart, he'll do everything he has to for it to happen, even bleed out. But it's a vicious circle, he's telling to himself he doesn't need drugs or love anymore, at least he tries to convince himself, but it looks like, sooner or later, he'll go back into one of them, or maybe both.
During the first listenings, it's hard to understand the entire message, furthermore, it's not a mainstream project, the melodies you keep in mind are rare. Actually, it's a project with many levels of listenings, and when we get the true message it's conveying, a message of loneliness and distress, we get the atmosphere of the album, which may be one the bests the artist has done. On the emotional level, it's a strong, powerful album, and you don't end the listening of it not being unharmed, especially when watching the clips coming with the album. There are many things to remember about this project, such as love is a dangerous thing, fame also is, but the most important must be that we have to love the person we love as much as we can when we have this person, either we will regret it, as The Weeknd does. Or you can just listen and appreciate this very well established album and its melancholic songs, sang wpbh the beautiful voice of The Weeknd, your choice.