Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bedstuy Betty Reviews The Weeknd's House of Balloons

These days the world of R&B is taking on a more hallucinatory and surreal approach with artists such as Frank Ocean, James Blake, and Beach House at the wheel.  With that said, The Weeknd is definitely the newest alum.  House of Balloons is equal parts grimy debauchery and polished production as 22-year-old singer Abel Tesfaye belts in falsetto about drugs, sex, and partying. Initially generating a low buzz in late 2010 when a few tracks were uploaded to YouTube for consumption as well as a cosign from Drake on his blog, not much was known about the Toronto-based group which is also comprised of producers Martin “Doc” McKinney and Illangelo.  With such themes, I probably would like to maintain an air of anonymity myself.  Don’t misunderstand though, House of Balloons is exactly what you want playing after a party at 5 in the morning when almost everyone has gone home and there’s littered glasses and bottles everywhere.

With the opening lyric on the first track “High For This”, “you don’t know what’s in store, but you know just what you’re here for...” Tesfaye creates a seductive aura over a hypnotic beat with light distortion. Throughout the song, there’s an evident quality of desire that is both visceral and alluring as he assures a girl for whatever act they’re about to engage in, she should be in an altered state. The Weeknd samples Siouxie and the Banshees’ “Happy House” for its title track as his falsetto implores the listener throughout the chorus that “this is a happy house” but as the song progresses it becomes slightly more mournful. Then like walking through a portal into an almost Odd Future setting, “Glass Table Girls” is quite obviously about that powdery white stuff while Tesfaye switches his style up opting out the falsetto for a sing-songy rap that’s more ramble than structured. The raw element of honesty present throughout the album also appears here as one lyric states: “I heard he do drugs now, you heard wrong I’ve been on it for a minute...”

Suffice to say with such hints, The Weeknd obviously lives it up and knows the party scene intimately. However their body of work thus far, also carries an honesty that’s indicative of the potential growth in R&B. While there’s little news about their next moves, Drake has tapped the singer for the OVO Festival in Toronto for late July along with rapper Rick Ross and there are rumors that he may end up working with Drake’s producer Noah "40" Shebib. We’ll see how long The Weeknd maintains their air of mystery.

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