On The Weeknd's latest release, the "Glass Table Girls" start to fall apart but still aren't ready to call it a night.
Echoes of Silence, the long-awaited third and final instalment in The Weeknd’s trilogy of mixtapes, starts with “D.D.,” (streaming at right) Abel Tesfaye’s re-interpretation of Michael Jackson’s 1987 classic “Dirty Diana.” In The Weeknd’s hands, the legendary MJ tune gets both darker and more desperate. Interestingly, while Tesfaye adds a distinct, Weeknd touch to “Diana,” it feels as though Michael Jackson now has a stronger influence on Tesfaye than ever before. Since the release of his debut mixtape, House of Balloons, back in March, The Weeknd has become a much better vocalist. It may sound crazy to say that he’s improved in a matter of months, but tracks like “Same Old Song,” “The Fall,” and the rather Jacksonesque “Outside” feature a range that wasn’t heard on Balloons, and was only hinted at on August’s Thursday. By R&B standards, The Weeknd has never been a blow-you-away kind of singer, and he’s still not going crazy with the vocal gymnastics, but on Silence, he reveals a previously hidden higher gear.
Thematically, Silence is even darker than its predecessors. The beautiful-but-troubled party girls that populated House of Balloons are really starting to unravel. On “XO/The Host,” Tesfaye says “I wanna catch you at your best/When your hair’s a mess/You look so depressed/And filled with regret,” letting us know that the “Glass Table Girls” aren’t really having fun any more, but can’t quite seem to figure out what else they should be doing. For that matter, The Weeknd isn’t having a particularly good time any more, either. On “Next,” he says, “Don’t make me smoke up all your kush/Don’t make me pop your cheap-ass pills/I used to do this for the thrill.” If the party-heavy lifestyle is ruining Abel’s lady friends, it’s also kind of bumming him out.
The production on Silence is more developed than the last two releases, as well. Sure, The Weeknd’s trademark electro-minimalism is still there, but “Montreal” also has big, booming drums, and “The Fall” is filled with layered background vocals and a hand-clap beat oddly reminiscent of Kanye West’s “Power.”
Whether The Weeknd can hit the same mega-star status as his homeboy Drake remains to be seen. He has all the talent in the world, but I pity the label that has to market an artist that avoids press at all costs and rarely plays live. That said, if he is prepared to jump to the major label–backed big time, Echoes of Silence would make an amazing launching pad.