Has The Weeknd Gone "Pop?"


Now, that's what you call clickbait.


In the past couple weeks, we've gotten two new Weeknd tracks. One, "The Hills," is dark, haunting, atmospheric, drug-addled "fuck deez hoes" amazement. The accompanying video is a clusterbomb of imagery, fueled (no pun intended) by a car catching on fire and Weeknd walking away, all Sephiroth-into-the-fire style, but in reverse. In other words, what we'd expect from The Weeknd.


The other, "Can't Feel My Face," is a drug ballad (maybe). "Face" takes some cues from Jason DeRulo and Bruno Mars (I feel a lot of "Treasure" in this track) and delivers them in a way only The Weeknd can. He pulls out the "Weeknd whine" and explains why he can't feel his face, a quote often attributed to a scene from the vastly underrated (but somehow incredibly overrated) film Blow, equating love with drugs and drugs to love. In other words, it's what we've come to expect from The Weeknd.


"Wait...what," you're probably asking, especially if you're unfamiliar with The Weeknd's backstory. "This isn't 'Wicked Games' Weeknd, so it's trash. He went 'pop.'"

Before he left his girl back home since he didn't love her no mo', he recorded songs such as "Do It" and "Rescue Me." Most of these, including some Kin Kane bars, are included on the unsanctioned release Before the Balloons. These Top 40-tinged songs were essentially Weeknd songs with happier production, sort of like "Can't Feel My Face." There were less Illangelo vibes, but the "feel" was still there. There was plenty of drug talk, plenty of deeper emotional trauma, and plenty of sad-even-when-I'm-happy feelings.

Essentially, what I'm getting at is this: the man hasn't gone pop. He hasn't completely switched his style up completely to appeal to a wider audience (hell, even "Earned It" is your standard Weeknd-type song, feel-wise, just a bit more sober). Yeah, he's evolved and grown as an artist. No good artist sits around for years on end and puts out the same shit. However, to say the man has gone "pop" because he's now popular is like saying Kendrick Lamar is bubblegum rap because of his "Bad Blood" verse--no matter how headshakingly awkward it was to hear Kendrick duet with Taylor Swift. It's asinine and comes off as hipster contrarian bullshit.

This sort of thing always happens with an array of underground acts who transition to success. For instance, when Drake started doing songs about being Drizzy and not as much about The Climb, there were those who asked "has Drake lost it?" And, while I'm admittedly not the biggest fan of IYRTITL, NWTS and so on (loved Take Care by the way), I look at those types with a side eye, mainly because he's still on the same type of shit. You can't rap about being on the come-up when you're already there.

I'll close this out before I start rambling. Just because your favorite artist is making music that's getting mainstream play, it doesn't mean the artist sold out. So, be happy that they're getting their burn, that you supported them when they were playing pissy little clubs in Middle-of-Bumfuck, Nowhere, and enjoy the ride. Just don't get too faded.

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