The Weeknd: Has Pop Taken Over?

Natale Fiocchi, Opinions Editor

The Weeknd’s recent sound has gained a very different audience. His latest album Beauty Behind The Madness has attracted a new following to his PBR&B background that will alter the perceptions of his original fan-base.

PBR&B refers to hipster R&B, indie R&B and alternative R&B and is a term used to describe an emerging, stylistic alternative sound to contemporary R&B. Other popular artists included in this genre are Frank Ocean, Miguel and PartyNextDoor.

Beauty Behind the Madness is the third studio album by Canadian recording artist The Weeknd. It was released on Aug. 28 by XO and Republic Records. Because The Weeknd has a fairly solid reputation in the R&B world, this album received a lot of hype when it dropped, despite this not being as original as his other two albums.

His first album Trilogy had a much more sorrowful, heartbroken sound to it than the new pop rhythm he has adopted. With songs like “Same Old Song” and “Echoes of Silence,” he describes a dreary time in life that connects to listeners. The album charted at number five and number four in Canada and the United States respectively. Shorty after this it went platinum and then double platinum.

His not as popular album Kiss Land has some of the same feeling behind his songs. In the track “Tears in the Rain” he sings, “It’s pointless like tears in the rain. So now that she’s gone embrace all that comes and die with a smile.” His sad, soulful lyrics paired with the slow pace of his tracks attract a certain type of audience that enjoys sounds like this. It’s not for those who enjoy upbeat, happy music.

His new album Beauty Behind The Madness, however, will appeal to those pop lovers.  On this album he has had four top hits: “Often,” “Earned It,” “The Hills” and “Can’t Feel My Face.” These are all songs that have become radio hits, and not just on urban stations. His new hits have become requested tracks on pop stations. This goes to show how his new sound has attracted a new audience.

The hits “The Hills” and “Can’t Feel My Face” have a very stereotypical pop sound with a catchy chorus that has Taylor Swift fans downloading the tracks. Lyrics like “I can’t feel my face with you but I love it” gives a surface-level generalized love theme to his work that does not match the deep, thought-provoking meanings behind his previous albums’ words.

It seems as if he is trying to make his music more mainstream. On the album he has two features with current pop artists Ed Sheeran and Lana Del Ray. These collaborations will surely give him more airtime, as if the pop culture wasn’t getting enough of his music.

One track off the new album, “Angel,” is the only thing that gives his original fans any hope that he hasn’t completely sold his musical soul to the pop devil. This was the only song from his new album that has a hint of his signature soul and meaningful lyrics that his past work has.  Without this song, the rest of his album would leave him open to comparisons to Bruno Mars and Justin Bieber.

For R&B fans, this isn’t the same Weeknd we know and love, but maybe he’ll turn around and surprise us all again with his next album.