Friday, October 26, 2012


I've made my feelings on the Weeknd's music fairly clear: I loved the trilogy of albums released last year because of the stylish production, but I keep returning to them because of the bizarre psychological terrain that the albums cover. Ahead of the release of Trilogy--the major label backed, newly mixed and mastered versions of House of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes of Silence--Abel Tesfaye and co. have released a new song, "Enemy." As Fact point out, the song sounds like it features a warped sample of the Smiths' "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want," which should do nothing to fend off the charges of the Weeknd's music being "PBR'n'b," but is another inspired production choice. 

"Enemy" itself is a wonderful track, taking the lush, sensuous pop of tracks like "Montreal" and "Outside" from Echoes of Silence and fusing it with the fragility of that album's closing title track to produce a coldly sensuous burner. The minimal piano backing feels like it exists in an ocean of space, while the hints of 80s guitar and the fairly minimal beat provide an accent and a foundation, respectively, for Tesfaye to do what he does best: unfurl a tale of depravity and seduction shot through with desperation, isolation, and manipulation. It's old ground for him in some ways, but few people are masters of an aesthetic the way Tesfaye is, and that aesthetic evolved a great deal more over the course of three albums last year than people gave him credit for. "Enemy" doesn't move that aesthetic into any radically new territory, but it does suggest that there doesn't seem to be a drop in quality on the horizon.

The best songs on his Trilogy were the ones that balanced this tension between the wild indulgences and psychological emptiness that seems to define his character--"The Zone's" admission of not being able to see or feel even as he has the sex he can't help but pursue being the archetypal example--but there was another strand to this, the one in which Tesfaye considers his own status and abilities as singer, celebrity, seducer and denounces all three as inevitably fleeting and ephemeral ("Rolling Stone" and "Next" come to mind). "Enemy" seems to balance somewhere between the two narrative threads, at once begging and yearning like Morrissey but in the same breath noting that "I'd rather be your enemy / than any friend you think I'd be" and admitting that he "forgot how it feels to regret my sins / I need the old thing back." Unlike "Rolling Stone" or "Next," though, in which Tesfaye worries that once he's told his story the females he surrounds himself with will leave him as old news, no longer mysterious and therefore no longer attractive, he flips the tables and explains to the female he addresses in "Enemy" that:
You remind me of a feeling that I used to have
So I don't know what to expect from you tonight
But I'm not trying to waste nobody's time
I'm just trying to find material, some inspiration
We can put it in a song, if you want.
It's another seductive dangling of the fame and fortune he promises on "Lonely Star," one predicated on his voice, though one in an interesting tension with the choruses desire to seduce her without a word, as if he doesn't want to have to resort to his status anymore. Tellingly, the old ambiguity returns in his desire to make her "numb without a word" and "leave without a word," the two things that Tesfaye himself seems to reveal about himself over and over again: he's always numb, and he's always leaving and being left.

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