The Weeknd, has gone from being one of the most elusive and mysterious artists around, to securing one of the biggest hits of the year with “Earned It”, taken from the Fifty Shades of Grey OST. over the past four years, Abel Tesfaye has been at the forefront, constantly changing our perception of R&B music. In summer of 2015, the singer shared “The Hills”, the first offering from his third studio album.
Whether it’s that effortlessly silky falsetto of his, or the dark and graphic imagery he incorporates in his songwriting, what makes his music so special, is the feeling that it evokes. You don’t need to live that lifestyle in order to feel it; The Weekend uses his music to transport you there. It serves as a loophole into the dreamland of sex, drugs and alcohol. After taking a slight detour with “Earned It”’s more classy aesthetic, Tesfaye reverts back to his signature nonchalant musings; back in his element of seduction and serenading.
Produced by Mano and long-time collaborator Illangelo, the track encompasses a sweltering beat which packs quite a punch. From the very first second, you’re thrown off guard with a shaky guitar riff before a bunch of crisp electronics weave their way into the soundscape. By the time you hit the chorus, a powerful bass bursts into life; presenting itself as the perfect backdrop for The Weekend to smother his debauchery on us.
On the slip side, the track is wonderfully balances with a blissfully delicate intersection after the second chorus, which enables Tesfaye to really flex his vocals. That signature falsetto rises to higher and higher pastures as he coos “The hills have eyes, who are you to judge”. Equilibrium in place, the track then continues on its blitzing path before ending with a curious vocal sample.
The most interesting aspect of the song though, has to be The Weeknd’s voice. Similar to that of “Initiation”, his voice seems to be filtered in some way or another, giving the overall effect of his voice a rather distant and foggy atmosphere.
“The Hills” isn’t exactly new, The Weekend performed the track earlier in the year at SXSW and later at his exceptional set at Coachella past April, without giving away the song’s title. And so, despite having already the track in a live setting, the studio version is in no way underwhelming, or disappointing. in fact, it improves it. Tesfaye cleverly shared the song with its accompanying visual, which not only served as the cherry on the cake, but also marked the beginning of The Weeknd’s endeavour into his third chapter. I’ll explain…
In the clip, Tesfaye is pictured walking away from the scene of a car accident, along with two female who follow him. Bloody and struggling to keep his balance, The Weekend arrives at a rather strange house, where we encounters three new characters. Those two girls at the start represent his two previous albums, Trilogy andKiss Land respectively; those of which, he’s left behind, moved on. The arrival at this peculiar house signifies Tesfaye’s transition into his third album cycle.
“The Hills” doesn’t really give much away as to what we should expect from the new album. But, what we do know, is that it’s not going to be anything like what we’ve heard before. The Weeknd’s drive to continue to push the boundaries is what keeps his music exciting and relevant, and we can’t wait to see (and hear) what he has in store for us.