The Weeknd is hardly a new household name for music blog readers. With three self-released compilations and a successful Coachella performance under its belt, The Weeknd has been on bloggers’ radar since early 2011. The compilations are finally getting a commercial release in the form of “Trilogy,” a mammoth opus dripping with ethereal goodness.
The Weeknd is the stage name of 22-year-old Toronto native Abel Tesfaye. Under this moniker, Tesfaye has created an addictive mix of seductive and angst-ridden rhythm-and-blues songs.
Most of Tesfaye’s tracks feature relatively sparse and simple instrumentals with ever-present echo effects. Low-end synthesizers establish a murky backdrop, while percussive accents weave in and out of cuts, creating eerie atmospherics. Songs tend to stick to a slow-tempo sultriness, which allows Tesfaye to exercise his impressive vocal abilities.
As he does on most of his songs, Tesfaye plays Casanova on “What You Need.” He lures a lady close as he sings, “I’m gonna love you, girl / The way you need / Ain’t no one gonna stop us.” Radiant piano chords hover over a simple percussion track as Tesfaye outlines the night to come.
He also pays tribute to those who came before him, with a fantastic cover of Michael Jackson’s “Dirty Diana.” While the track is called “D.D.” on “Trilogy,” Tesfaye channels his inner King of Pop to deliver a powerful rendition of the song, complete with forceful synths and shadowy percussion elements.
“Trilogy” may be a unified collection of three separate non-commercial releases, but Tesfaye still manages to breathe new life into the compilation for established fans. “Valerie,” “Twenty Eight” and “Till Dawn (Here Comes the Sun)” provide some fresh material for older listeners to chew on.
With “Trilogy,” Tesfaye finally brings his Weeknd project out of the blog shadows and into the bright lights of commercialism. While the compilation is a crash course in genre bending, Tesfaye should have no problem finding a large audience out in the wide world of iTunes and Spotify.
Overall rating: 3 ½ stars