I was never a Beyoncé fan. Not really. Sure, I enjoyed some of the big singles, recognized her A-level game, but never actually enjoyed a full album. I’d honestly tried with Sasha Fierce, but her energy always felt constrained and compromised across the length of an album, only fully erupting on a song or two. I was never completely blown away by her artistry and passion.
This isn’t a review because I’m just listening right now myself. I’m just letting everyone know that, despite all the Kanye hype this week, Future is the rapper you can actually listen to today.
I’m also publishing this because, as of one full listen, EVOL is fucking fire.
Here’s that moment, almost 5 years ago, when I realized The Weeknd was my jam.
While Abel Tesfaye is currently riding a wave of stardom with Can’t Feel My Face and spots on the Fifty Shades soundtrack, here’s the original slow jam that seduced the world. It’s called The Morning.
It’s great seeing more of my friends finally recognizing this dude, thanks to his latest single, but I’ve been proselytizing for years now. For all the fine work he’s done since, the original Trilogy of albums from 2011 stands as his obvious masterpiece. I’ve got fond memories of walking down the sidewalk with friends in San Francisco, belting out the verses to this tune. We were ecstatic and laughing at the seemingly sudden and magical way R&B had re-entered our lives as a vital force. It had returned older, wiser, and a lot more psychedelic than we remembered from the 90s.
I’ll just leave you with a link to those evocative lyrics. It’s just not the same to quote them in print; you’ve gotta sing ’em.
So I’ve had the album for a year now. We’ve had the entire trilogy for a while, in fact. Only just now I realized there are videos: this one is compellingly odd and surprisingly fun for those with an eye for cinema.
Watch the entire video for an indulgent mini-opera of how singer Abel Tesfaye compares a messy breakup with the violent overthrow of an Ethiopian king, while the lyrics paint an unflattering story of misbegotten sexual revenge. Honestly, it’s a lot more fun than that sounds. The song is a crumbling finale on his first album, House of Balloons; although not my favorite, it’s a perfect end to the party-life-gone-to-seed theme of his work.
But for certain people (me) the highlight appears around 2:20 with a direct reference to one of the greatest films of all time. You may recognize it from the little image appearing next to the address bar in your browser right now.
If you aren’t yet familiar with this artist, I suggest you hit the-weeknd.com where all three of his albums are available completely free and are, to my ears, nearly equally brilliant.
In 2011, like every year since I’ve discovered how to harness the power of the internet (and a handful of discerning friends) to expand my horizons and unveil whole dimensions of music, has been an incredible year for listening: another slab in my monument to Why You Should Pay Attention. I held crushes on a number of albums and fell deeply in love with a select few. All deserve acknowledgement but only the most striking motivate me to gush at length. With a little luck, I can turn people on to something which will enrich their lives and change perceptions in small or significant ways. Or maybe even sell an album for one of these deserving artists!