The Weeknd – Echoes of Silence (Review)
Nobody had a 2011 like Abel Tesfaye. In March, the 21 year old released House of Balloons, his debut masterpiece that pushed the sonic boundaries of R&B with its woozy production and drug influenced songwriting. Tesfaye’s brilliant vocals laid perfectly over Doc McKinney and Illangelo’s production as ‘High for This’ and ‘Wicked Games’ are among the 2011’s best songs, bar none.
Within a month, The Weeknd was both an internet and mainstream sensation, who solidified himself as a major threat that was more than ready to lead the new generation of R&B. In August, he followed up with Thursday, the brother to H.O.B as the Weeknd returned to the devilish, somber sound which garnered him his initial critical acclaim. Thursday was less about the melodic hooks and alarming anthems, as they took a backseat to the atmosphere and production throughout the tape. That subtle shift in his music showed that Tesfaye was far from a one trick pony who was willing to experiment with a sound that was so adored by his loyal followers.
His success continued, leading to collaborations with Florence & The Machine and Lady Gaga. He’s also appeared on Drake’s luminous sophomore LP Take Care. Around this time, Tesfaye announced that he would be ending the Balloon trilogy with Echoes of Silence. He claimed that this effort would be more “experimental and different” than his previous projects and took to Twitter to express his trepidation, stating: “I hope they don’t hang me for my decisions on Echoes of Silence.”
Luckily for us, Echoes of Silence is a hybrid between his two predecessors, combining intoxicating hooks full of sheer vocal excellence and impeccable songwriting. The topics remain the same, as themes of drugs abuse and adulterated sex are littered throughout the mixtape. This is far from a bad thing, as Tesfaye sounds more than comfortable spewing dark, sensual lines to his female counterpart (work that back out while I tire out/roll that weed, blow the fire out/taste that lean when you kiss my mouth/get so wet when I eat you out.) I mean, those are words that would put Uncle Luke to shame. Not really, but the calm ease in his voice while singing such lyrics makes for an terrifyingly enjoyable listen.
The tape starts with ‘D.D.’, a thunderous and dazzling rendition of MJ’s guitar-assisted “Dirty Diana”. Those aforementioned guitars are missing, but don’t fret: The Weeknd’s tender falsetto more than makes up for its absence. This is loud music; a track that should be chewed up, digested, inhaled and absorbed in its entirety. He’s 3 for 3 on intros as he delivers another phenomenal opening . ‘Montreal’ is lively and addicting, accompanied with a smooth hook which confesses to an unwilling female that she “could’ve had it all/could’ve been my lonely star…” It’s a stimulating track and the obvious choice for the radio if the airwaves actually played dope music.
Like his previous efforts, the transitions from song to song are flawless and orchestrated in a manner where Echoes flows as if it’s one long, continuous listen. That can be a fault to some, but when the music is this deafening and addictive, complaints are scarce. ‘Montreal’ seamlessly shifts into ‘Outside’, almost so well that it confuses the listener into thinking its one track, similar to H.O.B’s ‘The Party & The After Party’. His production is often known for switching midway through a song, creating a completely new feel and the trend continues on Echoes. On one of the album’s standouts ‘XO/The Host’, the 808’s and snares-driven production switches to an airy resonance full of synth, hi hats and – wait for it – echoes. The cut’s last words: “Just ride it…” are interrupted, and the head nodding knock of ‘Initiation’ begins. This attention to detail and precision creates as cohesive of a feel you’ll ever hear from a project.
‘Next’ is a scathing track targeting the so-called groupies who “just want me ‘cause I’m next.” This might be the best record on Echoes as the Weeknd is at his somber, reflective best, showcasing both his unparalleled vocals and often-reflective thoughts. He has a knack for constructing records that can resonant with everyone, both male and female and the chorus deals with his awareness of those latching onto his cattails because of his immediate success (Baby who you tryna fool, I might be 21 but I got memories to prove, and I’ve seen your kind before and I know exactly what you want…)
There’s nothing that I can say that hasn’t been said already about The Weeknd. He’s phenomenal. He’s breathtaking. He’s passionate. He’s mysterious. He’s a true talent. Lord knows how hard it is to release one critically acclaimed project in one calendar year, but he dropped three in 2011 and all of them have been well-received. Each one shows Tesfaye pulling another trick out his sleeve, and bringing something new to the table. However, he never strays too far away from his trademark sound. And we thank him for it. He’s set the bar so high with these releases that one wonders if he’ll be able to create something as brilliant in the upcoming future. But that’s neither here nor there. We’ll just enjoy what he’s given us up ‘til now.
Rating – 9/10
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