Review Summary: Merely a collection of Tesfaye’s three mixtapes that never makes a convincing argument for why it’s necessary. The only characteristic exclusive to this compilation that differs from the originals is the shockingly poor and uneasy mastering work.
Ontario native Abel Tesfaye’s rise in popularity and subsequent acclaim by critics and fans alike of his experimental R&B music released under the alias “The Weeknd” would have to lead to a very much hyped and anticipated official debut album sooner or later. It appears it’s arrived sooner than expected, as after independently posting his music on YouTube for streaming and then compiling that music into three mixtapes available for free digital download all throughout last year, The Weeknd’s first release that is purchasable in physical format is upon fans in the form of a collection of his three mixtapes, appropriately titled Trilogy
It’s only natural to question the point of Trilogy
’s existence. As it turns out, the only reason for it being released is to mark the new plateau of success he’s achieved by having signed to his first major record label the Universal Republic Records. In this way, Trilogy
just mainly seems like a release in celebration of all the fame Tesfaye has garnered, with not much else purpose besides that. When signing to a major label, the label is understandably eager to get out a release from the newly signed artist, but even if the label itself needs to release it, fans may not find themselves having much need for Trilogy
, especially if they have already downloaded these songs for free last year. That is of course, unless they desire to own a physical CD copy of the content (unfortunately being the only option as Trilogy
was disappointingly not released in vinyl format).
The minor features included in Trilogy
that prevents the songs on this compilation from being virtually identical to the ones released by Tesfaye himself - as one would most likely assume - are that the songs are supposedly “remastered” versions of the original. “Remastered” is a tad bit of a strong word to use for the changes that have been made here. It was only last year that these songs were produced, and the technology used to master the originals has barely changed, so it’s honestly an exaggeration to call the versions found on Trilogy
“remastered” when they’re really just tweaks to the details in songs. These tweaks however, have anything but minuscule effects on all of the track’s as a whole, as Trilogy
surprisingly features significantly lesser quality than the original versions of the mixtapes.
For whatever reasons, the mastering job that was done here makes these versions of all the songs feel very strained and limited. Interesting and unique aspects of the versions found on the mixtapes such as samples and distortion effects are cut, seemingly in favor of making this music less obscurely experimental and more accessible. The hazy overcast these songs once emitted has been relinquished and replaced by a polished and poppy sheen. Aside from the songs losing certain quirks about them, the music in general just feels choppy and watered down. The atmosphere of tracks and all their minute details no longer engulf and surround the listener, the layers instead sounding stacked on top of each other and processed, with the intricate left-field beats of the originals hushed for what appears to be the sake of streamlining the music.
Tesfaye's vocals also sound like they have been amplified and put above the music itself. Tesfaye's main appeal to mainstream R&B audiences is his voice alone, which certainly grabs their attention much more than the beats behind it. So mixing the songs to put more emphasis on his vocals is a logical choice if the intention is to mainly cater to the crowed who could care less about the sound that supports The Weeknd, but Tesfaye already went fairly over the top in his vocal performances on the original versions of these songs, and putting them even more at the front of the songs than necessary just makes his vocals all the more overblown, and gravely overwhelms every other aspect of the music backing him too much of the time on these masters.
Though if fans can tolerate and get past the shoddy mastering edits, these are still the same songs they know and love at their cores. Indeed, this is still the same Weeknd at heart, R&B for those who have more experimental preferences when it comes to the musical side of things. Tesfaye's cold delivery of lyrics both suave and dirty, and the intoxicating spell the after dark party mood casts are both thankfully still intact. Although, while the natural range of his lustful voice is stunningly magnificent, and his raw vocal talent is undeniably impressive, his at times ridiculously elongated croons about sexual longing and drugs over numbing lounge tunes can still get rather draining and exhaustive early into any one of the mixtapes, and even a little awkward when he curses in high-pitched tones. And though the three exclusive B-sides featured at the end of each mixtape on Trilogy
sound like inferior outtakes that lean towards a much more brighter light than the bleak dimness Tesfaye is known for, and sound not as emotive in comparison and out of place because of it, Trilogy
is simply a collection of The Weeknd’s mixtapes, it couldn’t be a more complete one, and it should supply fans with everything they could want, despite the quality being questionable.