Rebecca Black and The Weeknd. Other than a penchant for autotune, you might well ask what these two artists have in common. Yet, in early 2011 both artists caused a stir, largely on the internet, and prompted much blogging that amounted to ‘Wow, have you heard this!’. In the case of Rebecca Black, it was the absolute horror of the painful lyrics, the sheer amount of autotune and the absurd video. In the case of The Weeknd, it was praise for the shockingly fresh free mixtape ‘House of Balloons’ on which the mysterious Toronto outfit created a sound that married dark hip hop beats, wobbly off kilter post-dubstep bass and decadently haunting R and B style vocals.
Yet the link between these two artists remains tenuous at best, that is until we come to the follow up to these first forays into the music world. Rebecca Black recently released a follow up to the now-classic meme ‘Friday’, called ‘My Moment’ which featured much of the same ingredients, Disney levels of syrup on the vocals, cringe inducing ‘look-at-what-good-clean-all-american-fun-we’re-having’ video and lyrics that left as much to be desired as its predecessor. And nobody cared. The song was just as bad as the previous one, but nobody wants to hear the same joke twice, especially when the first joke was funnier.
This is where The Weeknd’s new mixtape ‘Thursday’ comes in, it is in many respects, the ‘My Moment’ to The Weeknd’s ‘Friday’, and really Abel Tesfaye gives us little reason to remain interested. He has, along with How to Dress Well and Frank Ocean, helped to create a genre known as ‘Indie R and B’ or, if you’re more cynically inclined, ‘Hipster R and B’.
What ‘House of Balloons’ had in abundance that led to it being one of those records made by black people and adored almost solely by white rock critics was a fresh sound with some compelling production. Since then Frank Ocean has released his ‘Novocane’, his first album as part of OFWGKTA, and proved himself to be both a more able song writer and lyricist with superior vocal chops. Yet, Tresfaye relies on the same worn out lyrical clichés that he used on ‘House…’, the low point being on Thursday where he croons ‘Not on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday but on Thursday, Thursday’ in a manner of which Black would be proud. One of the potentially best moments on this record is Drake’s verse on the end of ‘The Zone’, yet it just shows how much a superior lyricist he is and largely serves to upstage Tresfaye. There is some progression, as ‘Life of the Party’ sees a foray into some dancehall style rhythms but is ultimately a misstep, with the only real success being the magnificent drums on the centrepiece of the album ‘The Birds Part 1’ which are reminiscent of Kanye West’s tribal sound explored on ‘Love Lockdown’.
Ultimately, the same sounds remain from the first mixtape, and in the fast moving world of the blogosphere on which The Weekend achieved success, adaption is necessary for survival. Were these mixtapes released in reverse order, one can’t help but think that ‘House of Balloons’ would have been seen as a similarly disappointing sequel. ‘Thursday’ is not a bad record, but in the context of his other work is not an exciting one, maybe there will be steps taken forward on his third mixtape, and realistically, Tresfaye was never going to make an entire new sound in the five months between his two mixtapes.
According to Wikipedia, the new mixtape should be coming out by the time this review is online, here’s hoping that its not ‘House of Balloons’ part 3. Although it would be better than Rebecca Black’s new single.