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The Weeknd enters the mainstream with Trilogy

The Weeknd's "Trilogy". No, that's not a typo.

The Weeknd’s “Trilogy”. No, that’s not a typo.

Canadian R&B singer The Weeknd mixes old and new for his debut album

He’s the best, worst-kept secret around. Abel Tesfaye, the 22 year-old Ontario native better known as the Weeknd or simply XO, has seen his career reach new highs in the last year.

While die-hard fans claim they knew him from before his House of Balloons mixtape, the Weeknd entered the popular lexicon after fellow Torontonian Drake began mentioning his talent in interviews and invited him to perform. The two merged crews, to form OVOXO, which Drake still shouts out on nearly every song.

While Drake is an impressive big brother to have in your corner, there is no doubt that the Weeknd is in his position because of sheer talent. His smooth falsetto is reminiscent of Maxwell in the ‘90s, yet his subject matter is decidedly more risque.

The Weeknd’s music is a cautionary tale about the intoxication of youth. He takes listeners on a journey of self-discovery through a kaleidoscope of heavy drug use and sexual promiscuity without glorifying these behaviors, but considering the consequences of his actions.

There is an addictive loneliness in Tesfaye’s music, and he is able to channel this into his more upbeat songs as well.

While Trilogy is the Weeknd’s first official album, there are only a few new songs. Most of the discography is from his previous mixtapes, which have been available online free, for years. Most of the songs have been re-mastered and are worth buying, even if you already have the mixtapes downloaded.

“House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls” and “The Party and the Afterparty” are catchy, fast party songs. “Coming Down”, “Next”, and “The Morning” are introspective, for when the high is over and the reality of being young and unsure sets back in.

As with all independent artists who go mainstream, the Weeknd will face intense scrutiny from fans and critics alike, who will be quick to shout “sellout” as soon as he tries anything different. No one is more aware of this than Abel himself, who recently posted a message on his website promising fans he will remain himself no matter how many records he sells.

It’s easy to be cynical and dismissive as he is still so young and fresh in the industry, but the Weeknd has always been on the fringe, delving into deep subject matter. As long as he is allowed the same creative freedom, he has the ability to bring restore R&B from the dance/pop hell it has festered in for years. He may no longer be a mystery but we still love him.

Songs to listen to: “Wicked Games”, “Birds Pt.1”, “The Fall”.[hr]

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