House of Balloons – The Weeknd

There are still two months left to go before the year is over, but I can quite safely say that my favorite music album this year is “House of Balloons” by the Weeknd.

I came across the Weeknd’s “High for this” through a dance video, and the uniqueness of the music caught me by surprise. It is a type of modern r & b mixed with techno and psychedelic vocals; an odd mixture between something classy and soulful, and something bold and new. The clean beats contrast the self-indulgent and overly melancholy vocals, making his music one of a kind.

Sometimes with my headphones one I realize I am completely zoned out, staring at an object on the table in front of me, my mind lost somewhere else, usually lost in a dance studio or stage dancing to the beats of the song. What makes the music so captivating is the various elements layered and mixed together: the beeping of electric instruments, the sharp and cold snares, the unusual bass pattern, the sultry vocals that in many cases act as an instrument as well, the autotuned voice, the sudden change of pace. I simply cannot take my mind off the way the Weeknd goes from the legato and long breathes (“well take a seat, we’ll just……”) to the sudden popping and staccato fast-paced and powerful notes (Drink it, drop it, drink it spill it/Baby, touch your body, body/You gotta, taste it, feel it, rub it on me baby). Then he tricks me into thinking the song is ending by murmuring long notes of “yeah yeah”, just to suddenly break into an entirely new beat. Never before have I heard a beat so deep, subtle and soulful. My mind is a dancer; she is moving to the song, and the song is caressing each of her movement, embracing and lifting her to a form of revelation.

The music is R-rated. The Weeknd sings about sex, drugs, cheating, partying, alcohol. His music somehow imitates the feeling of “being high”. I do not exactly how the feeling of “being high” is, but it is darkly similar to the way people have been describing it: “when you close your eyes you feel like your on a roller coaster or you are flying.  you enjoy dancing in the beggining and sleeping at the end. you feel complete and enjoy what going on around you.” (Internet) At some point i feel if I don’t stop listening to his music, I would start going crazy, because even when the song ends, the melody stings in my brain, his vocals haunting, the words he say echo (“am I making love to you through her”, “you wanna be high for this”).

Then at other times, I indulge in the warmness of his unautotuned voice. He lowers his pitch and sing as though softly whispering, “I always want you and I’m coming down”. Or he brings in more of the soulful and rhythmic r&b, or keep it unadorned, such as in “what you need” and “love through her”.

The Weeknd is often compared to Frank Ocean, but Frank Ocean, with the same indulgent and melancholic style, experiments with hiphop and possesses a more raw, more rap-style voice. I appreciate the smoothness and silkiness of the Weeknd’s vocals that work so well with his music’s tone. It is a unique style of music. I can’t see the Weeknd gaining as much popularity as mainstream music because his music is definitely not easy-listening. But I have discovered his music being quite popular among modern and young hip hop dancers, and I am looking forward to more choreography for his music.

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