By Justin Lyons
Though some of the mystery surrounding Canadian act The Weeknd (aka Abel Tesfey) has subsided, he still has enigmatic qualities that make Thursday enticing. While the down tempo production from Doc McKinney & Illangelo continues on most of the new tracks, The Weeknd examines a broad range of instruments and pumps up the drug references.
With sound effects more akin to dub than urban music, a stuttering synth and drum lead the way as Tesfey tells a girl she can have everything a “star” would have as the beat for “Lonely Star” spirals out of control. Drake further incites affiliation speculation with a welcome guest appearance that balances well with The Weeknd’s digitally veiled vocals. Drizzy’s see-saw flow (including musings on the artistic merits of exotic dancing) mirrors the kickdrum that exudes heartbeat qualities that further intoxicate the drug induced love story.
While the confident come-ons are aplenty (“Heaven or Las Vegas,” Gone”), Tesfey also shifts gears emitting self doubt and anxiety. He opens up with worries that admirers will ditch him once they get to know him on “Rolling Stone.” The endless loop of a strumming of the guitar is as potent as the song’s reference to being high on weed and ecstasy. The progression of The Weeknd is apparent on early favorite “The Birds Pt. 1.” Bombastic marching drum fuels Tesfey’s warnings that his love interest should look elsewhere as he is “just another bird.” The acoustic bridge segues well into “The Birds Pt. 2,” but the sequel’s energy quickly tires.
While Thursday isn’t as stunning as House of Balloons, Tesfey proves he has interest in falling back on tired trends. Thursday is an apt display of an artist technically classified as R&B, though the drug and sex-filled landscapes and dub production still feel very experimental.