R&B music has always been about sensuality. Laced with passionate melodies and aching falsettos, the genre has an intimate sex appeal that can steam up anyone’s bedroom. But when underground R&B newcomer Abel Tesfaye aka The Weeknd embraced this genre, romance and passion were supplanted with darker themes of dissolution, addiction, and at times, downright pain.
The Toronto native’s debut mix-tape, House of Balloons, is a haunting arrangement of morning-after tales of lust, overindulgence, and youthful indifference. While the focus on sexual escapades and rampant drug use is common in the R&B world, The Weeknd’s acknowledgment of the lingering emptiness that follows a night of partying sets House of Balloons apart. Listening to the lyrics of “Wicked Games”—in which Tesfaye seductively sings “Bring the love baby I can bring the shame/bring the drugs baby I can bring the pain”— it is clear that the Weeknd is not trying to glamourize the rock star lifestyle. The heavy bass rhymths of producers Doc McKinney and Illangelo under intricate synth overtones set the album’s nocturnal tone, and after a few listens the beats become as addictive as Tesfaye’s narcotic themed lyrics. Released for free on The Weeknd’s website, House of Balloons is a viral record documenting the darker side of desire that will get anyone hooked.
Think you can listen to House of Balloons without turning into an addict? Download the mix-tape for free on their website and find out: the-weeknd.com
– Lucy White