Review – “Echoes of Silence” by The Weeknd

Review+-+%22Echoes+of+Silence%22+by+The+Weeknd

Brooks Clarke. Editor-in-Chief

 

 

 

 

 

It’s not often that I listen to the same artist, much less album, obsessively for over a month, and still can’t get enough. Nor do I consider myself an expert of R&B, or its storied history. However, when that rare gem does indeed capture your attention and refuse to relent, regardless of musical tastes, the feeling is nothing short of magical.

Such is the case of rising star, The Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye), and his latest release, Echoes of Silence (Dec. 21, 2011). While it’s unfair to compare Tesfaye to a legend like Michael Jackson as some have done, his voice and style are no less captivating. His combination of gentle melodies and soothing, borderline sensual, moans are far subtler than Jackson’s flare for the dramatic.

Speaking of MJ, the first track of Echoes is a bass-heavy rendition of “Dirty Diana” dubbed “D.D.” While Weeknd does a mighty fine job of replicating, and, in some cases, surpassing the king of pop’s signature style, what elevates Tesfaye above the myriad of MJ wannabes is the emotion he injects into every groan and shriek. Rather than just copy his predecessor, Weeknd makes the song his own, and it shows.

Echoes never approaches anything quite so pop-ie following his foray into the ‘80s. Weeknd specializes in a more subdued approach to the dark, seedy nightlife of urban America. Screaming, “Hoo!” and doing 180° spins onstage just isn’t Tesfaye’s style. Songs like “Montreal” and “Next” are far more representative of Weeknd’s deliberate, at times, stagnant, technique, for better or worse.

What sets The Weeknd apart is his ability to deliver such dark, often depraved lyrics with such finesse and grace. You would never expect songs about drug-induced sex, prostitutes and various other vices from such a, for lack of a better term, delicate voice. It doesn’t come off as hokey, instead complementing the darkness of the album while simultaneously providing a broader appeal.

On the flip side, you have songs like the titular, “Echoes of Silence,” where Tesfaye indulges a bit too heavily in slow-paced melodrama, to the point where his vocal limitations become uncomfortably clear. Indeed, The Weeknd walks a very narrow line, balancing his penchant for shady lyrics and graceful harmonies. Only when he leans too heavily to either side do the cracks in Weeknd’s style become apparent.

But then you have songs like “Initiation,” which, if not for its abundance of explicit lyrics and borderline eroticism and just about everything else, would be a commercial hit. Of course, that’s when The Weeknd is at his best, when his songs are at their darkest and dirtiest, yet still melodic.

Top Songs:

Initiation

Montreal

The Fall

D.D.

Same Old Song