Thursday, 9 February 2017



The Weeknd - House Of Balloons (2011)

I remember the first time I ever heard The Weeknd. James Cherry shared ‘Wicked Games’ on Facebook. I thought it was by a band called The Weeknd initially. For all the love I have for Abel I hope we can all agree it’s a fucking stupid name for a solo act. That aside I instantly fell in love with the song. RnB isn’t meant to be rushed and it was all really drawn out and seductive, as is the whole record. This really was a blinding debut. It’s interesting to revisit it because it largely shaped where RnB is at now. This was almost the dawning of the new era. A modern blueprint. The trend was set with this release.

As is his sound, the project is very unique. Only 43 minutes long in 9 tracks. It’s dreamy, druggy, lucid and spaced out, thick with echoes and reverb. It’s such a patient listen. The subject matter was kind of rare of at the time too. RnB songs weren’t really about the things on this record at that time. Typically Abel sings about vice. All the songs are like hangovers, talking about drink, drugs, sex and partying. Now, in the shadow of The Weeknd’s early work it’s kind of been done to death. Artists like Future, Kanye West and Drake adapted their styles and it’s what we are used to hearing. But at the time it was very exciting. Also Abel was largely faceless at the time. People didn’t know what The Weeknd looked like. His face wasn’t plastered all over it. It was pretty cool.

Song for song it’s such a strong project. I couldn’t possibly pick a favourite track. I listen to it and my choice changes as it progresses. I love lean projects, and there really isn’t any fat here. No filler. ‘High For This’ sets the tone and is the perfect opener, encapsulating the mood of the record. I remember hearing that for the first time and thinking his vocal performance on ‘Wicked Games’ wasn’t a fluke. This guy can really sing! Another stand out is ‘What You Need.’ It has all the elements of a classic song by The Weeknd. If you were trying to convince someone that he is worth his salt this would be a good one to go for. ‘Coming Down’ Is a pulsating, mellow song that opens the tail end. The mantra ‘I only want you when I’m coming down’ rings through out. This typifies the whole project. Like I said the theme of being jaded, drugs, partying and sex stay true from start to finish.

I remember when I first heard this, thinking about how it doesn’t at all sound the same track for track but it all sounds like it belongs on the same release. That quality shouldn’t be as rare as it is. I think a lot of that is to do with the spacey vocal production. It just all fits and works so well, the journey as you listen is effortless. If it’s been a while since you listened to it dig it out and do so. I still think this is one of his best works to date and a killer debut. It’s sultry, sexy, slow and melodic. Everything that a good RnB record should be. I’d take another one of these over a thousand Starboy’s any day of the week.

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