With After Hours and his Superbowl halftime show, The Weeknd has edged further and further to the center of modern culture. With a television series in the works, he moves closer still. This complete media saturation can only be comparable to that of his personal hero Micheal Jackson in the 1980s.
A new era in The Weeknd’s evolution
To be so embedded in the public eye is hazardous. Every offhand comment, bad breakup, and personal misfortune is amplified a thousandfold. Superstar artists regularly burn up.
Abel Tesfay is ready. He recently admitted to GQ he now lives a drug-free lifestyle. He no longer sings explicitly about sex or cocaine. Formal black and white suits replace Avant-garde hairdos and bright outfits. Tesfaye is intent on mass appeal. He has grown up. At 31, Abel has come to embrace many of the social and musical conventions he once rejected. The Weeknd no longer wants to rebel. He wants to make himself a household name.
A generational pop hero
The risk here is that his music will become about exciting as your favorite breakfast cereal. ‘Take My Breath‘ sits on that razor’s edge. The Weeknd pillages ’70s disco (such as Cerrone‘s ‘Supernature’) and 1980s pop (Berlin‘s hit Top Gun soundtrack single ‘Take My Breath Away‘). Nothing is left to chance.
Is ‘Take My Breath’ worthwhile?
The result? Tight execution. ‘Take My Breath’ is slick. There is an element here that feels almost too clinical. As if it were put together like a machine. The lyrics are one-dimensional. Tesfaye’s vocals however are exceptional. His music and lyrics act only as a tool. The true objective is getting a feeling which sits within his heart across to yours.
And it works. ‘Take My Breath’ is masterful in its simplicity. The Weeknd’s ecstatic performance, one he does not overplay, is sure to please longtime fans. What is more, it will win the appeal to many new ones.
The new King of Pop
The Weeknd’s recent work reminds us just how much we have been missing a King of Pop’s presence for the last two decades. All things of course eventually go pop. Part of the thrill of listening to Abel’s music is the climb it represents. He rose from obscurity to become music’s eminent male entertainer. The key to this transformation is the ability to continue to improve and meet the needs of the moment.
There are objections. After Hours never received the live tour it deserved. Yes, these singles are somewhat airless. How much of himself can he suppress himself to remain this one-size-fits-all pop star he now presents to us? Next to Abel’s heart-on-sleeve early work, The Weeknd of 2021 is a guarded one.
Final thoughts on The Weeknd
When it comes to his recent singles though? They work. Tesfay’s trap roots give novelty to his newfound pop classicism. They make the music unique. And as his fame has grown so too has his talent and his ambition. Surely The Weeknd has some reasonable limits he will one day hit. Not even The Beatles could last forever. ‘Take My Breath’ makes it clear we are a far way from seeing it happen.
The Weeknd 'Take My Breath'8
Heavy with emotion
Is he becoming too much of a classicist?