The Weeknd might be going more mainstream, but his heart is still in the shadows.
In his second studio album, “Beauty Behind the Madness,” the singer let’s go of some of the moodier tones to bring listeners a more mainstream vibe while keeping up with his promiscuous lyricism.
The opening line of the album, “Tell ‘em this boy wasn’t meant for lovin’” sets a precedent for the rest of the album’s theme of seduction in a party setting and an all-around disregard for emotions.
Whether the Canada native is jaded by heartbreak or just infatuated with the fast lane, nearly every song has one reference to a refusal to find deeper meaning in a relationship or slow down as a party boy.
In “The Hills,” a song that hit radio stations in the summer with a bang due to its hard-hitting chorus, The Weeknd highlights what is possibly the message of the entire album: “When I’m fucked up, that’s the real me.”
There seems to be a direct correlation between substance and seduction in The Weeknd’s songs, as seen in songs like the chart-topping “Can’t Feel My Face” and “Tell Your Friends,” a song notable solely for the fact that it was produced by Kanye West.
In the latter song, the R&B singer refers to himself as “that nigga with the hair / Singin’ ‘bout poppin’ pills, fucking bitches, livin’ life so trill”.
Later in the song, he also makes a jab at love with the lyric “they told me not to fall in love, that shit is so pointless”.
These continuous references to drugs, alcohol and promiscuity paint the picture that The Weeknd is comfortable with disregarding responsibility in his love life, something reflective of both his age and the age of his main audience.
The Weeknd’s music plays on pop and hip-hop radio stations alike all around the world. But the artist’s target listeners seem to stem from college-aged, Lollapalooza-bound youth, a demographic which is often considered tied to abusing substances and hook-up culture.
In many songs on the album, listeners see the pull toward appealing to a young, reckless crowd. Though older albums and mixtapes of The Weeknd’s gave off the ambiance of a dark bedroom, this album showcases the artist’s ability to fit into the mainstream sound of dance clubs and social gatherings.
Some of the mashups featured on “Beauty Behind the Madness” also point toward this shift in style. With collaborations later in the album with pop stars Ed Sheeran and Lana Del Rey, The Weeknd shows fans his voice can work well beside those of mainstream pop icons, and that he is not limited to the R&B corner of music.
The song with Del Rey, “Prisoner,” sticks out in particular as a wise collaboration choice. The lyric from Del Rey, “love will always be a lesson, let’s get out of its way” illustrates the theme of being unable to grasp the true concept of relationships.
Del Rey’s sulky voice paired with the seductive notes sung by The Weeknd mold together to successfully showcase both genders’ inability to hold onto sobriety and monogamy.
Perhaps in a few years listeners will turn their radios on and hear The Weeknd singing about settling down, getting married and being happy. But for now, the artist’s goals seem to be to appeal to the culture of low-lit parties and conversations whispered between sheets.
And it’s working.