I’m a big Weeknd fan. That voice is enough to confirm opinions of a talent, but his contemporary take on R&B, fusing elements of hip-hop, electronica and pop is something to really admire. Having successfully made famous this renaissance of the genre, pretty much on his own, The Weeknd has continued to impress across his fairly brief release history. Having dazzled critics with his trilogy of neo-soul-infused mixtapes, and having narrowly missed out on a debut number one album with Kiss Land, The Weeknd has continued to rise up the music industry food chain. Now boasting accolades such as an incredible headline spot at Lollapalooza, as well as various number ones, how would his sophomore pan out?
I think it’s fair to say that The Weeknd’s voice is his prime selling point, but the production is the key on his album. From the funky, house-stemming Losers, to the sultry shoulder-dropping Acquainted, Beauty Behind The Madness is a concoction of expertly perfected variations of R&B. Metallic instruments with the punchy vibes of The Weeknd’s vocals delicately placed over the top really does epitomise the album’s title, best evidenced on one of the album’s highlights Real Love.
For the life of me I cannot figure out why Ed Sheeran has a place on this album, and to a degree Lana Del Rey also, particularly on the tracks they appeared on. While Lana I can see warming to me, Sheeran is featured on one of the most minimalist and dark tracks on the album, which isn’t where I expected to find an acoustic English lad. As well as this, content-wise, the whole LP has an air of ‘alright we get it’. On the one hand I respect The Weeknd to sticking to his sound, but on the other, by the end of it all I didn’t want to hear one more song about a woman, ever, and believe me there’s a lot of them.
While the production of big drums, sultry 70s 808s and weaving strings is definitely impressive, and The Weeknd’s vocal performances can be in no way be criticised, I feel it’s the album’s content is the project’s downfall. The Weeknd must have had a hell of a lot of deeply-rooted romantic affairs in his life to continue to fill a full 14 track album with heartbreak songs. While this is right up some people’s streets, and in limited quantities mine too, throughout Beauty Behind The Madness, my mind did wander.
Verdict – WWW