There's no one who makes me want to go on a cocaine and ecstasy laden bender and jump in bed with the first dangerous stranger quite like The Weeknd. But that oversimplifies everything that The Weeknd does–yes, he sings about drugs and sex and tenuous romance and misery, but there's a whole lot more to it than that, and listening to The Weeknd is unlike listening to anything else. That's quite a feat, since The Weeknd draws from so many genres and influences; he's a hip hop artist who, by all accounts, seems to be crazy for the Cocteau Twins and Siouxsie and the Banshees; sometimes his music reminds me of bass music or "witch house," sometimes it feels a bit like a rock jam, but it's never predictable and it's always absolutely fantastic.
I had low expectations for his latest, second album, Thursday. To be clear, when we're talking about The Weeknd, low expectations are comparably high. But I certainly couldn't expect anything to even begin to match up to the perfection of his first mixtape, House of Balloons. Neither The Weeknd nor anyone else will ever be able to make another "High for This," "House of Balloons / Glass Table Girls," or "Coming Down" (my top tracks off House of Balloons).
Everyone seems to fall in love with different Weeknd tracks, but when that love kicks in (and sometimes it takes some time for Abel Tesfaye to penetrate the depths of your soul), it's impossible to stop, and you can't not listen to that song on repeat for hours (I'm pretty sure I've probably played "High for This" at least 500 times, many of these in endless loops as I begin to listen to the entire album and just can't get past this first amazing track, despite the greatness that lies beyond, and I'm still not sick of it). Something about divinity and emotion being injected into every shallow thing I've ever done or thought about doing. Anyway, I had a strong feeling that all that Thursday would do for me would be to make me want to listen to more of House of Balloons.
Thankfully, I was wrong. Well, in a sense, I was right. Thursday isn't another House of Balloons. And in this case, that's not such a bad thing. We already have House of Balloons and we can revisit it whenever we want to. I'm glad that this album is somewhat different, though I still can't quite put a finger on how. I do think that it lacks tracks with quite the same "holy fuck" factor as "High for This," but there are still tracks that will (and already have) gone into a similar endless-repeat rotation (for me, those songs are currently "Life of the Party," "The Birds Part 1" and "The Zone" which features Drake).
The entire album is pretty incredible; while with House of Balloons, many of the tracks were somewhat polarizing (most people I know adored half of the songs and generally skipped the rest after a few listens, though many were growers), I think that the tracks on Thursday have more universal appeal. I can listen through this entire album without any desire to skip any of the songs, and everything flows together oh-so-nicely and continues to feel like a narrative — even a narrative that's tied in with House of Balloons' existing story. The dark tone that was present on House of Balloons is still there, but it feels more like you're in the midst of the party than in the surrounding hours.
I'd go so far as to say that this album is about the party, while House of Balloons is about the pregame and the afterparty. You might say that the party is a bit more crazy and fast-paced, but also perhaps a bit more shallow (don't misunderstand me, though: I definitely wouldn't classify this album as shallow, and that's the beauty of it: shallow subject matter and some of the most vulgar lyrics intertwined into something that feels more important). It's definitely packed with excitement and layered emotions, but they're all blended together without quite as much time to reflect. Thursday is a great follow up to House of Balloons, with the same amazing production I've come to expect from The Weeknd. I really think this album could grow on me to the point of being a separate but equal entity from House of Balloons.
Download: The Weeknd – Thursday