Far from it, in fact. Thursdays a terrific R&B record, creeping and grinding along at a pace appropriate for a sequel to the menacing, borderline-nihilistic Balloons.
What the second album (Tesfaye promised a trio by the end of the year all to be downloaded online, for free) lacks is the cloak of enigma that surrounded the first. What made Balloons so menacing was the anonymity of its originator, who seemed to live in a sinister, otherworldly party realm inhabited by too-skinny models desperate for cocaine and fame, and a host of libidinous monsters preying on them.
Or perhaps The Weeknd ought to be credited for seemingly picking up where they thematically left off. Opening track Lonely Star is all temptation, an eerie beckoning that everybody but the object of seduction knows to be trickery. Much of Balloons concerned what Tesfaye called a dream world on Loft Music, but Life of the Party on Thursday is a grungy, twitchy other side, as he terms it in the first line. Slowed-down reggae is the new sound, and its getting more specific. Shes tried drugs and now the narrators got a roomful of niggas for her to ahem entertain.
Fellow young Canuck Drake (to whom Tesfaye is indebted for introducing The Weeknd to the public consciousness in the first place) contributes a verse to The Zone, which juxtaposes a beat that belongs in a human chest against some of the least humane, exploitative and confused lyrics in R&B.
While were on that topic: This is not the R&B of Kelly Rowland, Big Sean and Beyoncé. This is the R&B of parties hosted by rappers and singers when their wives are away. Its the gritty tales of a thousand nameless, faceless girls allured and debauched. Its Tesfayes silky voice shrouding confusion and disillusionment.
Its good to know that innovative R&B hasnt surrendered completely to a hipster interpretation of the genre (hilariously coined PBR&B on account of acts like How to Dress Well), and even better to know that this is only part two of a trilogy. Matt Carney