Review Summary: A completely brilliant beginning to what hopes to be a long and bright career
In a year following the overhyped, yet worthy My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
, it is unfortunate that the hip-hop genre has done almost nothing to pick up where Kanye left off. We saw the emergence of a new production demigod in Clams Casino, yet the artists he pairs with leave much to be desired. Danny Brown continues to do his best Lil Wayne-in-Detroit impression, yet falters in the beats department (hint hint Clams Casino). No single rap record encompassed a complete package enough in 2011 to make a true musical statement for the future.
Enter Toronto's Abel Tesfaye, aka The Weeknd, the spiritual inheritor of Kanye's cross-genre torch. House of Balloons
introduced the world to Tesfaye's beautiful R&B falsetto, while firmly entrenching his art as innovation through Downtempo-laden production. The title track has easily become an anthem for 2011 in its indiefied interpretation of the original post-punk classic "Happy House". Follow-up Thursday
wasn't just dumb luck and met his new found audience head-on with a less chilled out offering, more influenced by trip-hop than anything else and maintaining a high standard for production and atmosphere.
Finally, Tesfaye closes out a completely massive 2011 with Echoes of Silence
- doing the nearly unheard of and releasing three genre classics within the span of a single calendar year. A sum of its parts per-se, Echoes
is an amalgam of all previous mixtapes, yet emphasizing a more pronounced hip-hop vibe. "D.D." uncovers a rift in time and space with Captain Eo and Tesfaye planted firmly in the middle; there is no question MJ traversed the temporal planes to steal the concept for "Dirty Diana". No single track is worthy of the malevolent skip button for lack of quality; if anything it's to get to an even more excellent track. "XO/ The Host" flaunts one of the finest beats found this side of the year 3000, where the tempered atmosphere of "Same Old Song" and "The Fall" encourage a definitely butchered yet emotionally charged duet with your car speakers on your way home from whatever it was you were doing at five o'clock in the morning. While many grasp for thematic interpretation of the Balloon-trilogy, they are missing the real essence of The Weeknd; drug/sex references and hazy nightclub escapades only take a potential artist so far with poor songwriting and create-a-rapstar production. Let the complete composition wash through your neurons and take it for what it is: a completely brilliant beginning to what hopes to be a long and bright career.