The Weeknd - Thursday
Record Label: XO
Release Date: August 18, 2011
So this is what The Empire Strikes Back would sound like if it was an album by a Canadian experimental R&B artist.
Abel Tesfaye, also known as The Weeknd, is in the process of building his own legacy with a trilogy. This trio of albums began with House of Balloons, a seductive album of stygian proportions that encapsulated Tesfaye's most beautiful highs and depressing lows in an irresistible package. His latest release, the second part of the trio, is the unclassifiable Thursday. Building off what made his sound so accessible in the first place, Tesfaye has successfully offered up another serving without falling into the rut of harsh similarity.
Opening with “Lonely Star,” Thursday quickly makes it apparent that Tesfaye still has women on the brain. Early on he promises he can make up for the shortcomings of a girl's best friends, a solution that's unsurprising after spending any amount of time with either release. “Baby, I could fuck you right,” he croons, blending the same ridiculous sentiments with sincere inflections that combine to form a somehow completely satisfying contradiction. As the album title and subsequent lyrics confirm, Thursday is a day of significance between Tesfaye and the unnamed woman, as they both make the other promise that they keep that day for the other and them alone.
One thing that's made immediately clear through the first few tracks of Thursday is that Tesfaye is far from a one trick pony. The production, while familiar when compared to his other work, bursts with new energy that complements the style changes well. From the droning, hollowness of “Life of the Party” to eerie shifting of sound in “Gone,” Thursday plays host to a variety of new production techniques that help to set this release apart from House of Balloons. Far from a complete change in sound, these adjustments enhance the stylistic composition introduced in the earlier release, using it as a solid foundation to build more complicated techniques upon.
The meat of Thursday is found in a two-part matinee that serves as the midpoint of the album. “The Birds Part 1” is driven by militaristic snares, a rhythmic pace that's not uncommon but catchy nonetheless. The lyrics tell the tale of a quick encounter that slowly starts to morph into something more serious. Tesfaye, while sympathetic, is uncomfortable with the notion of falling in love and, in turn, being loved. There's obviously feelings there, but the idea of being caged is too much to keep him rooted in one place for too long. While the beat becomes repetitive on consecutive listens, the ending lines and the underlying acoustic guitar riffs remain fresh and smooth. The aftermath is portrayed in “The Birds Part 2” as the woman becomes more and more desperate. The guitar riffs continue over a slowly paced beat, which also incorporates brass and strings to round out the sound. Lyrically, this second part doesn't offer much, but the retracted speed provides an interesting take on the mechanics found in “The Birds Part 1.”
With only a five month delay between releases, it would have been completely understandable if Tesfaye recycled unused portions of House of Balloons in order to create Thursday. Hell, that might actually be what he did. Fortunately, the improved production erases all doubts that this album was rushed in any way. While less varied in the style department than its predecessor, Thursday is another intimate look at the Tesfaye and the life he lives as The Weeknd. Surprises abound within the confines of its fifty minutes, the biggest being a competent verse by fellow Canadian Drake, but it's definitely no surprise that Thursday is another solid release for Tesfaye to notch in his belt.