Releases-to-date round-up that suggests The Weeknd may be a star of 2013.
Mike Diver 2012
“You don’t know, what’s in store.” The opening line on this major-label compilation from Abel Tesfaye, aka The Weeknd, isn’t entirely accurate. Trilogy does feature previously unreleased material; but 27 of its 30 tracks are from free mixtapes the Canadian put out in 2011. What’s in store? Mostly what we’ve heard before.
But the familiar nature of this material takes nothing away from Trilogy. This is a great commercially available introduction to a young RnB talent who's following Frank Ocean into the mainstream. Tesfaye’s lyricism can be explicit enough to leave listeners squirming; but alongside this he exhibits an exquisite vulnerability that sets him aside from so many peers.
Perhaps Tesfaye’s most obvious parallel is Drake, whose own intimate confessionals reached something of a zenith with Marvin’s Room. The Toronto rapper’s been a supporter of Tesfaye since day one, too, and features on The Zone, a mid-section standout of Trilogy’s second disc, Thursday.
That disc, and its predecessor House of Balloons, are reviewed in more detail elsewhere on BBC Music. But, long stories short: disc one takes samples from Siouxsie and the Banshees, Beach House and Cocteau Twins, yet makes every constituent this artist’s own; and disc two is a more meditative collection, harder to love on a first listen but ultimately as, if not more, rewarding.
Echoes of Silence is disc three, originally issued at the very end of 2011 and longlisted for the Polaris Prize (Canada’s Mercury Prize equivalent). Its opening cover of Dirty Diana is completely captivating; and regular producer Illangelo, whose contributes to all three discs, is joined by in-demand desk-jockey Clams Casino for The Fall.
The Fall encapsulates what’s so appealing about The Weeknd in just under six minutes: ethereal keys, precision-engineered minimal beats, and Michael Jackson-recalling vocals that stretch and soar while never threatening to splinter. It’s comfortable, this brand of catharsis, despite the mature themes unfolding.
Disc-closing new cuts Twenty Eight, Valerie and Till Dawn (Here Comes the Sun) are fine complementary offerings, appetite-sating extras while Tesfaye’s Universal debut takes shape. If this awesome potential feeds into and grows within said release, 2013 is The Weeknd’s for the taking.