Well baby, I’m just being honest
And I know my lies could never make you believe
Runnin’ in circles, that’s why
In my dark times, Ill be going back to these streets
Promising everything I do not mean
In my dark time, baby this is all I could be
And only my mother could love me for me
In my dark times
In my dark times I still got some problems, I know
Drivin’ too fast but movin’ too slow
And I’ve got something I’ve been trying to let go
Pulling me back every time
In my dark times
One of my favorite songs off the aptly titled, Beauty Behind the Madness.
The Weeknd has plenty of controversy surrounding his music, centering around his subject matters of sex, drugs, and wild lifestyles – brought to sharper focus by his blunt and more than sometimes, but less than often – vulgar lyrics.
The Weeknd’s music was something that’s slowly grown on me since his appearance in mainstream music due to last year’s contribution to the 50 Shades of Grey soundtrack with this song Earned It. This song started out as something I reluctantly got stuck in my head. At first my – admittedly – sometimes rigid musical principals told me I shouldn’t like this song, but typical to some contemporaries I couldn’t help but have the catchy melody floating around my brain, tempting me to dig further, but I yet resisted. The Weeknd is not the typical artist or type of music I usually go for. I’m huge on content not just sound, and on the surface he appeared to be just another one of these “hit makers”, publishing a sound that’s popular at the time just to make a quick buck.
Of course, then came along I can’t feel my face. At first I didn’t even realize this was the same artist. This song I immediately dismissed, it didn’t have much meaning and just seemed like one of the catchy “crowd pleaser” type of songs. In late August I had to have cervical spine surgery for a ruptured disc, specifically the procedure done was ACDF with Laminectomy. I was out of work for 6 weeks, and after about the 2nd or 3rd week I was well enough to be bored – but not well/strong enough to yet return to work. Unable to hold my head up for very long, but no longer floating on percocet clouds, I turned to social media to keep me entertained between bouts of Netflix, Hulu, and Google Play binges.
One of the apps I downloaded was Vine, through which EDM and artists like The Weeknd were prolific. Hearing The Weeknd on so many of the little videos reminded me of my previous urges to dig deeper into this artist, despite my aforementioned rigid musical principals lecturing me in the background. So, with nothing better to do, I did.
What I found, was a man with one of the purest falsetto voices I’ve heard in contemporary music, telling a story about his life, struggles, perceptions of young life today, and his own inner thoughts and emotions.
I found an artist that lures you in, like a siren, with crystal clear vocals and then pounds you down into the grit of his life with an unrelenting tide of bass lines and melodies.
And once you’re down in it, you start to see beyond the vulgarity of lyrics such as “Baby girl just wanna smoke a pound. Do an ounce, get some dick. Tell her friends about it”. You start to see the story of each song as a whole, and realize that the “shock value” of the vulgarity actually serves a purpose. In the song Tell your friends, quoted above, he talks about the lifestyle he lives now compared to what he lived before he became famous. At face value it seems like he’s bragging, but if you listen closely and really think about not just what he’s saying, but how he’s saying it – you realize there are undertones of gratefulness for where he’s arrived to, reluctance for some of the lifestyle that comes with it, as well as some shots at rumors being flung about regarding his drug use.
If you’re looking for an upbeat and joyful sort of music, you won’t find that in The Weeknd’s music. What you will find is an artistry that is able to transcend different life styles and allow you to relate to his messages, even if at face value he seems to be singing about an experience or lifestyle that you’ve never had yourself. In one of his more recent chart topping songs, The Hills, he’s singing about having a purely physical relationship with a woman who’s in a relationship with another man. I’m a perpetually single woman – the obvious opposite of the situation that’s being sung about. So how can I relate to this, you ask?
I only love it when you touch me, not feel me
When I’m fucked up, that’s the real me
Sometimes, you have relationships, when viewed with 20/20 hindsight, you realize that the person never really understood or cared about you. Or maybe you’ve had relationships that have left you feeling unworthy of love, messed up, and wondering if you’ll ever be able to be emotionally open and healthy again.
Reveling in a sexually promiscuous lifestyle is a common theme in The Weeknd’s music, but he leaves you wondering sometimes, such as in his song Acquainted. This song really leaves you guessing. He sings about falling for a girl, when he normally doesn’t. The song’s entire theme revolves around wishing he didn’t feel the way he did about this girl. But what leaves you wondering, is does he wish he didn’t feel this way because he’s not the type of guy to fall in love (as he says in several songs), or because the girl he fell for is not a good quality woman?
“Baby you’re no good, all my n****s thing I’m crazy because I’m thinking ’bout you daily…… Mama called me cryin’, cryin’, cryin’ cuz I won’t find somebody that’s real. Every time I try to try to try to run, the fast life keeps gainin’ on me.”
Among all of the grit, The Weeknd does have a softer, more sentimental side as is expressed once in a while in songs such as Angel. In this song he sings about a woman with which he experienced a “love at first sight” sort of experience with. But true to his style, this is not a “happily ever after” story. Getting into the meat of the song, he laments over his lifestyle and even he himself and his mistakes not allowing for being with this girl. Most surprising, and unlike most songs of this nature (from anyone) he expresses his desire for this “Angel” to find someone to love and to be happy with, even if it’s not him. I’m not going to quote this song, as I think just a few lines won’t do it justice. I do encourage you to click on the link and have a listen though – it’s one of my favorites.
In the end, The Weeknd may not be for you, but don’t let the surface fool you either. I was pleasantly surprised to find the depth, insight, grit, and emotion that I did in his music, and he’s earned his spot on my list of favorites.