Review: Beauty Behind the Madness by The Weeknd

the-weeknd-new-album-beauty-madness1 - Copia

It’s surely been a great year for The Weeknd. After building a solid fanbase and a reputation with his mixtapes (later regrouped under the Trilogy collection released in 2012), Abel Tesfaye got a taste of chart success collecting 4 consecutive top 10 hits, of which 3 have been solo: “Love Me Harder” (Ariana Grande’s 3rd single from her second album), the Fifty Shades of Grey-featured “Earned It,” the #1 smash “Can’t Feel My Face” and, lastly, the promotional track turned single “The Hills.”

Beauty Behind the Madness, in stores this week, is then set to launch The Weeknd to pop star level, but despite working with Max Martin on a couple of tracks, it’s refreshing to find out that his music has not lost the traits that distinguished it when The Weeknd was just a new artist on the come up.

Sure, there are some blatantly commercial tracks which are aimed at pushing the album to the mainstream public that is slowly starting to appreciate him, but the record retains the darker sounds provided by his longtime collaborator Illangelo and the two sides find a fine balance on tracks like “Tell Your Friends” (where Illangelo assists Kanye West), “The Hills” or “Acquainted,” which pair his “traditional” production tricks with strong choruses.

And yet it feels like after “Can’t Feel My Face” makes his debut in the middle of the album with its groovy Michael Jackson hommage, the album changes its tones. The tracks become brighter, like the guitar-laced “Shameless” with its powerful declaration of loyalty. “In the Night” should easily be the next big hit from the album thanks to its huge chorus. “Dark Times,” a collaboration with Ed Sheeran, is driven by a bluesy guitar riff, while Lana Del Rey is the right fit for the ultra mellow “Prisoner.”

The Weeknd’s high pitched vocals are now clearer than they were on his previous work, echoed and mastered to fit the grand sounds that they accompany on this album. He did his best not to sound too whiny and jarring when he hit the higher notes and for that we are grateful.

Overall, it seems like Beauty Behind the Madness is a transitional record: it’s the best effort at bridging the gap between the Alternative R&B tag he had earned for himself and the newly found mainstream aspirations. An effort that seems to be paying off so far and that we applaud.

 

Grade:
80/97

 

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