May 27th, 2011
By Bernadette Herrera
Mysterious R&B artist The Weeknd continues to receive hype from both the indie and mainstream music scene after the Internet debut of the self-released mixtape House of Balloons on March 21. House of Balloons is a nine-song mixtape by the 20-year-old Canadian artist Abel Tesfaye, who was initially only known by his stage name for having his real name undisclosed until recently.
Little information is known about Tesfaye, and until a little over a month ago, only a small number of people even knew of him. Tesfaye’s sudden rise to Internet fame can be credited to his fellow Toronto native Drake who enlightened the world by tweeting lyrics from House of Balloons and by blogging about The Weeknd on his website, October’s Very Own.
The Weeknd takes on R&B with a modern twist, incorporating electronic synths and samples from Siouxsie and the Banshee’s “Happy House” and Beach House’s “Master of None”. In addition, influences from underground hip-hop such as How to Dress Well and Frank Ocean from hip-hop collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, are evident in House of Balloons.
Another factor that contributes to The Weeknd hype is the creepy and somewhat alarming content in both the lyrics and the resonance of the mixtape. The Weeknd takes R&B decadence to a whole new level, detailing a drugged out world while preying on women for sex.
Juxtaposed themes of sensual seduction and love are disturbingly explored throughout the mixtape. For example, “What You Need” is about luring women despite of existing relationships, promoting promiscuity: “I’ve got everything you want with me / I’ll do everything he does times three / And he don’t gotta know.”
The desire to lure women is even more obvious in the track “Wicked Games.” Alongside the entrancing electronic beats are the lines “Bring the cups, baby I can bring the drink / Bring your body, baby I can bring you fame.” The attempt to seduce women does not end there. In the second verse, The Weeknd adds these haunting yet borderline poetic lines: “Take a shot of this / But I’m warning you / I’m on that shit that you can’t smell baby / So put down your perfume.”
Perhaps The Weeknd’s unforeseen experimental disturbance in the R&B genre and the increase in debauchery are the factors that make listening to House of Balloons entirely addicting.