Abel Tesfaye is one prolific mystery. He also has one of the best voices in all of modern music. With his audience still reeling from the devastating masterpiece that was House of Balloons, he decided to drop the also excellent Thursday mixtape, fittingly, last Thursday. The ominous, after-hours beats, the creepily fascinating sexuality, the frighteningly drug-fueled party scene– it’s all here, it’s just that this is a more reserved, individual work than Balloons.
For the last 20-plus years, R&B has been a pretty R-rated genre. The Weeknd pumps that rating up to Kubrick-ian or Lynchian NC-17 levels without sacrificing an ounce of the instantly satisfying, endlessly listenable sound that has led to the sound’s vast popularity. Granted, this, and most everything else on Thursday, is nothing new for Tesfay. His music is rooted in dusk to dawn fantasies/nightmares that are both gorgeous and disturbing. It’s the sort of timeless fascination that has captivated both artists and consumers of art since the beginning of time. But, The Weeknd is just so good, it’s like nothing you’ve heard before. Oh yes, and on “The Zone”, Weeknd discoverer(?) Drake absolutely blows our minds with a killer flow in the last two minutes or so.
While certainly a fantastic work (especially considering this thing is FREE!!!) the mixtape lacks the surprise-factor and all around production value that made House of Balloons an album of the year candidate. Thursday is free, it’s The Weeknd’s second of three albums set to arrive this year, and it’s pretty damn good, so it’s hard to be too critical of it. Still, you can’t help but hold it up to its predecessor. Regardless, Abel Tesfaye’s project is one of the most exciting and promising around today. Look for the trilogy’s finale, Echoes of Silence, this fall.