The synthetic ethereal sound of the Trilogy mixtapes are not strongly present on this record. Instead it has it’s own unique desultory sound that Abel is clearly experimenting with.
But this record is not Kiss Land, nor is it his infamous gloried Trilogy mixtapes. It has remanences and hints of his previous work, but to plainly put it – it’s just different.
Yes the drugs, sex and partying are still riddled through his lyrics. That’s what makes The Weeknd, The Weeknd. But it appears in a less abrasive way – with a more subtle, tame and loving method of storytelling.
It’s A Different – But You Can’t Blame Him For This Change
He’s not living the same life he was 3-4 years ago. Abel is in a different place mentally and physically. He doesn’t spend most of his time in his old stopping grounds of Toronto. He’s been traveling the world ever since he went to Japan to create Kiss Land. He’s surrounded with new people, new influences. He’s happier, more successful and A LOT more people know his name. Thus his music has inevitably changed as you’d expect any young growing artist to do.
With that being said, I think we need to remind ourselves that:
Evolution of artistry is guaranteed in the creative field of music. Will we miss miss the raw hunger and passionate stylized sound his mixtapes? Of course. But I think change and growth should be celebrated instead of admonished IF it’s at the benefit of the artists psyche and promotion of a new exciting sound, instead of our own selfish desire for the Same Old Song.
Pitchfork asked why he decided to chase a more straightforward sound with this album?
“For a while, I didn’t focus on the commercial success. I really was going at the punk aspect of everything, which worked, but I felt like it got redundant. I owe it to people—to my family, to myself—to make music that makes me feel good and also is a little easier to understand.”
THIS ISN’T A POP ALBUM
Ever since the leak dropped, people all around the internet have been upset because this album is so different to the rest of The Weeknd’s music. Many people found themselves disappointed with the general quality of the album, quickly dismissing it as “just another pop album”. Labeling BBTM as a pop is vast oversimplification, and in my opinion disrespectful to the artist and the genre.
The content is not that different from his other work, even though the vibe is quite different. Don’t get it twisted Can’t Feel My Face and In The Night could be classified as pop songs when individually judged, but other than that, it’s still different from almost everything else in modern music.
This album has it’s great qualities and given time you will eventually see them after more playthroughs. Give it a chance and put aside any preconceptions of what the The Weeknd is or should be.
Because then you get to the point where you can connect the dots and realise
This album is not supposed to be about doing lines of coke, fucking girls and all the usual Weeknd hijinks, it’s about him trying to get away from all that
It’s exciting and refreshing to hear Abel pushing himself into new territory on this new record. This album has a spectrum of emotions running through it. Some light moments, and many dark moments riddled through a refreshing up beat instrumentation.
A LOT of OG fans have very strong opinions on this album. Some actually really dislike it, but it seems the consensus so far is that it’s a “good” album that is growing on people.
A very abrupt start that will take you by surprise, as we’re welcomed with a nice upbeat synthy production.
The violin playing over the outro of the song harmonsies beautifully with Abel’s voice. I don’t remember him experimenting with violins much but this track shows why he definitely needs to more often.
Mood wise this feels like a typical Weeknd track but the instrumental feels very refined behind its large string sections.
Lyrically The Weeknd reflects on all the things his mother has told him about his lifestyle, reasling that it’s all the cold truth. Though he is seemingly unwilling to change anything about it as he opens up about his mistakes as a destructive lover:
Mama called me destructive
Said it’d ruin me one day
Cause every woman that loved me
I seemed to push them away
A vulnerable song that fits The Weeknd’s image as we hear him talk about his mother which is a topic he usually keeps very private.
He’s self-loathing dark style echoes through the last bridge
Don’t waste precious tears on me
I’m not worth the misery I’m better off when I’m alone
Labrinth and Abel coincide really well on this track behind a calming piano and funky electronic instrumental.
Labrinths signature is electronic production so it’s no surprise this track sounds the way it sounds. A simple electronic dance track that feels good.
For the large majority of new fans that are unaware Abel dropped out of school when he was 17 with his best friend Lamar
Hence the reason he’s letting everybody where it all started for him
Only losers go to school
I taught myself how to move
I’m not the type to count on you
Because stupid’s next to “I love you”
“Stupid’s next to I love you” draws parallels with stupidity and falling in love. Abel’s a firm believer that relying only on oneself is the best way to move. The only person he’s counting on is himself.”
As the high pitched soulful bridge hits it feels like a turning point in the song from the his past to present reality. Boasting his team and him became successful doing it all alone, he lets us all know his coming for the throne and all the accolades that come with it.
And now that we’ve gone this far
Who do we owe it all to?
We did it all alone
Now we’re coming for the throne
He’s happy he did it all alone with only a small team of close confidantes . He’s proud and boastful of his success, as he should be.
Tell Your Friends
The transition from Losers to Tell Your Friends is a surprisingly jarring connection once the hard hitting piano rings but that still doesn’t take away from this being one of the best records on the album. There’s no coincidence this is due Kanye Wests incredible production who has added yet another incredible song to his resume. Note how reminiscent Tell Your Friends is compared to Kanye’s Runaway. Both songs start with slow melodramatic piano into an incredible distorted guitar solo that Mike Dean clearly had his hands all over.
It feels like a lot instrumental ambition went into this track. The rich piano harmonising with the shimmering keys later followed by a huge distorted horn section is really beautifully done.
I’m that nigga with the hair
Singing ’bout popping pills, fucking bitches, living life so trill
Serves as a nostalgic reminder to his old fans that he still contains traits of his old self that made him The Weeknd, while at the same time letting his new fans know of his self destructive alluring habits. Abel has nothing to hide, chasing the fame, women and drugs are all part his journey.
The Weeknd paints a bleak picture of his misspent youth, singing about being broke and homeless, his nights filled with substance abuse, meaningless sex and theft.
I used to roam around the town when I was homeless
Me and Lamar would rob a nigga for his Jordans
Some people have recently gone as far to say The Weeknd is “sell out” (which I think is ludicrous) Especially because he sais in this very song
Money is the only thing I’m chasing
Going back to The Morning off House Of Ballons he echoes the same sentiment
This is what he wants, he wants the fame and money now. He’s trying to take over the world and become the next MJ. That isn’t a hyperbole – that’s paraphrasing.
From being homeless robbing people to having enough success he can have any girl he chooses, easily keeping up his habits like never before.
Now we get faded, when we want girl, we got choices
Lay them on the fucking table, we got choices
And if they wanna fuck my niggas, they got choices
An incredible song that tells the story from his humble beginnings to the troubles and pleasures of his fame and success.
Often | The Hills
A welcome smooth transition into Often and The Hills which are some of the highest quality songs on the album.
Everybody already knows how great Often is recognising it as one of the most seductive raw songs on the album. The song speaks for itself.
But The Hills is a much more recent song. A much more explosive vulnerable song.
I only love it when you touch me, not feel me
When I’m fucked up, that’s the real me
He sings this, but he doesn’t sound happy about it at all. It’s as if he laments the fact that this is what his life has been reduced to, but he still addicted to the feeling.
These two tracks would definitely be the highlight of the album only if they weren’t released prior to the album. I believe this is the reason why BBTM was reviewed poorly by a lot of fans. It’s the type of songs that many XO fans wanted the whole album to be, but there aren’t many other tracks on the album that have these heavy, dark atmospheric illustrious sound.
Never the less, they are both incredible.
The beat drop is unexpectedly…dope as shit!
The production on this and the sub/bass on this song is amazing. Originally this song was recorded as Girls Born In The 90s which was leaked, but Abel decided to rework the song and include a variation of the outro that samples Girls Born In The 90s.
With Acquainted, we get the first “love song” of the album. The lyrics would suggest he’s falling for this girl. However, read between the lines and we see The Weeknd’s true intentions behind this song.
You got me puttin’ time in, time in
Nobody got me feeling this way
You probably think I’m lying
I’m used to bitches comin’ right ‘way
He knows he has a reputation for going around fucking women and pushing them aside like it’s nothing, so he needs to show some self-awareness in order for her to believe him. However, during the song’s gorgeous hypnotising outro we hear The Weeknd’s true feelings.
I got them thinking that they want me
Although they know they’re not the only
He may be trying to change, but a part of him seems to love the manipulation.
Cant Feel My Face
Very Michael Jackson-esq, it’s very clear MJ has been a big inspiration for Abel for a very long time.
This song personifies drug addiction (cocaine) which hasn’t stopped it from being a radio hit in any way. Which makes you question whether people really realise what it’s about or just don’t care in the midst of a cool old school funky beat.
As I mentioned before, the album shouldn’t be classified as a whole to the pop genre, but this song stands alone as a legitimate pop song.
Really strong instrumentally upbeat track with a clean grooving baseline and it’s catchy hook create the recipe for why it captured so many people and had the success it had.
So, we’ve established that Can’t Feel My Face is really about coke, but it could be interpreted as him using coke and other drugs to create some type of synthetic infatuation for a girl and change his ways. He may not be using drugs to fuck girls left and right, but he’s still using them, maybe this time to try and change.
Shameless may be one of the best songs on the album for a lot people. The melodies and hook may make it sound like a love song, but it’s quite the opposite. It seems to be more of portrayal of Abel’s ego. Instead of being apologetic he blames the girl who he has been chasing all album long, but he’s hurt her, badly.
She obviously can’t get over his desire for him, so she keeps crawling back for sex with the hopes that it will be the last time, but it never is, and it always makes her feel guilty – shameful.
I don’t wanna hurt you but you live for the pain
I don’t wanna 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
The Weeknd still has the same ego as always, and the power he feels when this girl keeps coming back to him is too great for him to give it up for a meaningful relationship.
The subtle production ending in an incredible guitar solo, once again reminiscent of My Dark Beautiful Twisted Fantasy.
As many have said before, Earned It seems out of place – somewhat forced into the album. Which is most likely Republic Records attempting to place something that the average person would recognise from the infamous movie 50 Shades Of Grey. The Weeknds never been about appeasing the average which would usually makes this track a confusing choice, but as we can tell by the drastic recent changes in his life, it makes sense.
As Big Quint said, this song could come on in the during apocalypse, your girl scared yelling “baby it the apocalypse!” and you’d STILL make love to her DURING the apocalypse TO this song with no care in the world.
An orchestral classy instrumental blending with The Weeknd’s measured passionate tone
This is the official baby making music
To get an insight to his decision making of this track: when Abel was asked about being on the 50 Shades soundtrack and duet with Ariana here’s what he responded with:
“Five years ago? Definitely not. I was the young starving artist that wanted to do it all by myself.”
But he and Max Martin hit it off. The unlikely pair reunited for “Can’t Feel My Face,” and he cites the Swedish maestro as a major influence on the rest of Beauty Behind the Madness.
“At one point, I didn’t care,” the Weeknd says. “Now I want as many people to hear my music as possible.”
In The Night
We’re immediately hit with a catchy 80s style instrumental behind a dark story line of a girl who is the victim of childhood sexual abuse. Abel tells this confronting story in a stylistic way that’s reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s vocal agility.
In the night she hears him calling
In the night she’s dancing to relieve the pain
She’ll never walk away (I don’t think you understand)
In the night when she comes crawling
Dollar bills and tears keep falling down her face
“She hears him calling” most likely a traumatic memory of her aggressor sneaking into her room to perform the act. She uses dancing/stripping as an escape which is why she’s making good money but can’t help but break down into tears.
As ironic as it seems, she uses stripping and sex as methods to relieve pain. It seems, however, that this line of work would only bring you more. Regardless, it keeps her coming back for more, just like her clients.
This irony is prevalent in the juxtaposition of tears to dollar bills, both of which fall down her face.
Whether she likes this or just needs money she’ll “never walk away”.
The kids are gonna love this track because its catchy and funky. You will see mothers playing this song with children in their car unbeknownst to the true connotation of this song. That’s the power of The Weeknd.
“Max’s studio used to be Marilyn Monroe’s old house and I came up with the concept for a song called “In the Night” in her bedroom. That was pretty amazing. Unfortunately I couldn’t help but imagine Joe DiMaggio’s sperm everywhere on the floor.”
In his interview by The New York Times, he revealed the song was made as a homage to Michael Jackson, and is considered to be the album’s most electric moment. When they played the song to his music publisher, Ron Perry, screamed with excitement
“It’s ‘Billie Jean’! It’s ‘Billie fucking Jean’!”
As You Are
If you follow the album as one long roller coaster story of Abel retelling his experience with this girl, he seems to be finally turning around being open with this girl. He doesn’t care about her past and is content with the way she is
Show me your broken heart and all your scars
Baby I’ll take you as you are
Despite this, he fears that he won’t be able to change and he’ll end up hurting her again.
Even though I’ll break you heart
I’mma need you
But during the outro, he begs the girl for the same treatment wanting her to take him as he is. He’s finally asking for help, in his own twisted way.
The most enjoyable part of this song comes in the last two minutes, at the melodic vocal switch and the beat slows down behind a very distorted overlay of Abel singing. As the beat is flipped so to do the lyrics as Abel asks this girl take him “as I am” which is in clear contrast to the first half the song which proclaimed this pain from the opposite perspective.
Ed Sheeran’s verse is decent and sounds like, well, like every other Ed Sheeran song. Abel’s verse was a lot poppier, but really enjoyable. The production fit them both really well and the distorted guitar strums repeating added a really nice atmospheric effect.
“only my mother could love me for me”
A very vulnerable honest line that echoes the time Tesafaye moved out at 17:
“Tesfaye went to his room, grabbed his mattress, dragged it out of the house and threw it in. His mother watched him grimly.”
‘‘The worst look anyone could ever have,’’ he recalls.
‘‘She looked at me like she had failed.’’
In Dark Times, he starts realizing that he can’t change, or he just doesn’t know how to yet. So instead of trying to delude himself into trying, he wants to convince the girl of the reality. No more lies, just sad tragic honesty.
This ain’t the right time for you to fall in love with me
Baby, I’m just being honest
The darkness of The Weeknd meets the raw lust of Lana Del Ray and it’s immediately obvious these two could collaborate together to make an incredible album.
The darkness of The Weeknd meets the raw lust of Lana Del Ray and it’s immediately obvious these two could collaborate together to make an incredible album.
They both have great chemistry; Lana’s underlying dark tones match The Weeknd’s atmospheric haunting vibes very well.
Abel and Lana admit they’re totally driven by their appetites—sex and drugs, sure, but ambition too. The life of an ambitious star sometimes involves a cold calculus—the art takes priority over real people. They’ve both made a decision to pursue their artistry, money and fame at a higher level—that commitment is its own kind of prison, but it’s one Abel and Lana willing to embrace.
I’m a prisoner to my addiction
I’m addicted to a life that’s so empty and so cold
Pitchfork: What character did Lana Del Rey play on the album?
“Me and Lana have been friends for a long time. I’ve inspired her, she’s inspired me. I feel like we’ve always been talking to each other through our music. She is the girl in my music, and I am the guy in her music. It’s just this ghostly collaboration that feels the most natural on the whole album. Even the whole monologue intro on “Lonely Star” from Thursday—I just realized now that that’s Lana. That’s Lana’s voice. [laughs] I mean, it’s my voice pitched up, but it’s her, it’s who she is. She was definitely the first feature that I wanted to bring on this album.”
If you listen closely during the chorus there’s some type of subtle percussive instrument played under the chorus that didn’t need to be there, this probely won’t bother the average listener but it just adds a little too much clutter to the beat.
In the end, Prisoner examines Abel’s lifestyle, through the song he realises he’s addicted to his “empty life” and that addiction is holding him back from a chance at love. All the things his mother has wanted for him are out of reach because of his need for this shallow life.
Didn’t expect such a direct love song or a ballad from The Weeknd, but this was 6 minutes of him singing from his heart for very conclusive end to the album.
Abel continually repeats
I hope you find somebody to love
Most people may interpret this as if he’s singing about this girl, but he may be singing to his fans as well. As if to say he’s completely different now and he hopes we find somebody similar to his old sound to love and appreciate.
He finally decides to let go of the girl he’s been chasing the whole album go. He knows she’s a great girl.
Knew you were special from the moment I saw you
But he also knows that as much as he and she may want to, they just can’t be together because of the life he lives, but he’s hopeful of changing eventually, just not right now.
But I know what I am and the life I live
And even though I sin, maybe we are born to live
But I know time will tell if we’re meant for this
This is all just wishful thinking, because he knows that after all the things he’s done to her.
You’ll probably never take me back, and I know this
The second half the song features the unaccredited Maty Noyes. Though a very short duration; the time Abel and Maty were singing together was angelic. They’re voices clicked through a gorgeous harmonic sound with arguably as great chemistry to Lana and Abel. Hopefully they collab again in the future.
“Usually, The Weeknd laments on the pain suffered through his girls or teases his knowledge of the female character’s downfall. We know he’s been wronged before, but after years and several projects have passed, we see a sign that maybe The Weeknd isn’t as emotionless as he’d like to portray.
The sinner hasn’t washed away his misdeeds yet, but he has found a heart and awareness of what “good” and “beauty” really are behind the madness of his lifestyle.”
Conclusion | Cohesiveness
This album is a bunch of different things, Alternative R&B, a little Rock, Blues and a little bit of Pop. An amalgamation of genres combined with stellar production.
But Is This Album Cohesive?
It’s a lot of different sounds and doesn’t stick true to a specific tone or sound like each of his mixtapes did in their own respect. As far as a complete project and body of work is concerned – it’s all over the place, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing given the suspected goal of this album. Note the title: Beauty Behind The Madness. I don’t think The Weeknd was trying to focus on one cohesive sound. BBTM is a collection of hard hitting songs collated in a chaotic mad way – on Abel’s terms. However, others may see it differently not liking the albums sporadic sound wanting more congruent and consistent tone.
So the pacing may feel out of wack, right form the get go we the get a loud abrupt blurring synth out of nowhere. If we remember Kanye did the same thing on Yeezus starting his album with the instrumentally obnoxious On Sight, which later grew on a lot of people as a really great track and album intro. He could have chosen the safer option of Blood On The Leaves but purposefully didn’t. Similarly Abel could’ve chosen the safer option of Tell Your Friends, but didn’t. As Abel and Kanye are close and he see’s him as an creative inspiration this is surely influence rubbing off.
I see the albums strong points being in The Weeknd’s ability to story tell his his dark and light times through the really high quality production. The way he’s telling the journey of his pains, struggles and beauty behind through this one women he’s talking about is really intriguing and to hear.
His managed to balance his darkness in a friendlier less confronting way. Although we get reminded of the old confronting Abel when he’s “saying who’s gonna fuck you like me”
This album is not perfect, I don’t believe it will be a classic in 5-10 years for The Weeknd’s discography. But it gets better over time, the more listens the more you’ll like and appreciate it. That’s why I’ve taken the effort to write this over a 10 day period instead of haphazardly throwing something up.
I can’t help but think this album could’ve been that much better if the highlights of the album “Often, The Hills, Prisoner, In The Night” weren’t all exposed before the release of the album (Prisoner was played live and In The Night was leaked weeks before) This makes me as a listener, less overwhelmed by these tracks and made me desire more “highlight” tracks which resulted in a less fulfilling initial listening experience. But if you didn’t hear any of these than bless your fresh virgin ears you’re in for a treat by an ridiculous talent.
In conclusion, this album isn’t meant to be like the others. He doesn’t seem to be proud and as boastful of the things he bragged about in Trilogy or Kiss Land. He’s starting to grow up and his mother’s disappointment is taking a toll on his psyche, but he’s become addicted, and this addiction appears to be holding him back from true happiness.
Although most would frown upon his habits they simply appear to be shallow activities used to push away real problems which he addresses within this album. He comes across wanting to a relationship, he really does want to be happy. Or rather the idea of those things. But behind his addiction to his chaotic life he can’t. That is Abel’s Beauty Behind His Madness.
Message To Those Who Want The ‘Old Weeknd’ Back
Pitchfork: Did you anticipate people would say that you’ve changed?
AT: Yeah. I put “Real Life”, “Tell Your Friends”, “Losers”, and “Often” at the beginning of the album because I’m telling a coming of age story. It’s a reminder that I’m not gone.
Many forget or don’t even know that The Weeknd started off his music making making radio-friendly like songs under the guise of The Noise?
Then, supposedly, the producers in Toronto he worked with (Zodiac) said to the effect of ‘Nah, fuck that. Let’s make this shit dark about sex and drugs.’ and they went with that. It defined The Weeknd’s sound and the mixtapes immediately were a smash that created a cult like following.
Abel is self-aware the entire time with songs like Rolling Stone saying that we hope we’ll still like him when he’s different.
“I feel like a lot of people who say I’m doing something totally different are just getting into House of Balloons,Thursday, and Echoes of Silence, and they’re like, “Oh my god, I want more [of that style].” But back in 2012, when I was continuing to do that kind of music, people were fed up with it. They were like, “This is all he can do?” I owe it to myself to show the world how versatile I can be, because that’s not all I can do. Why can’t I try something that challenges me as an artist?” (Interview with Pitchfork)
The Madness | Chapter IV | Gone: The Album
Some say we’ll never hear Trilogy Abel again. Maybe we will, maybe we won’t. But I like the following hypothesis.
I think he will take over the industry with this new found sound, become a household name and the number 1 artist of the genre and then suddenly switch up left field. Whether this comes under his own volition or in a response to a certain set of chaotic circumstances. For example, when he breaks up with his current girlfriend Bella Hadid (granted they stay together long enough for her to have enough influence on him) he suddenly does a Kanye and drops a dark heavy emotional album that has the similar impact t 808s/MDBTF/Yeezus.
Excerpt Interview From Pitchfork Interview
“There are songs like “Gone”where I don’t even know what I’m saying—I let my voice do all the talking. I’ll probably do an album like that one day where it’s not lyrics at all, just melodies and great production. Maybe the next one, I don’t know. That’s the Ethiopian side of me.”
Imagine Gone…the album.
We can only dream for now.
Delivering one thought provoking unique email every Sunday.
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I want to help empower people make different choices that elevate their lives.
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