Before 2015, when you heard "the weekend," you assumed you were talking about the end of the week. Things changed so drastically that year that today, if you hear the word "weekend" you're humming along to 'Starboy.' The Weeknd made 2015 his year by skyrocketing with success to legendary heights. He's a household name now, and it's all thanks to his 2015 sophomore record.
When listening to it now, it's easy to see how The Weeknd's Beauty Behind The Madness was a recipe for success. The seamless blend of hip-hop, electronica, and R&B brought together dozens of different influences spanning several generations and even genres. It's like a melting pot of pop goodness, full of great moments and even greater songs.
The album brings together several genres to provide for a very unique sound. Somewhere or the other on this record, you'll hear the sounds of 80s synthpop, modern hip-hop, and even glam rock. The album opens with 'Real Life,' an epic but slow-moving track that has resonating guitars and powerful orchestras backing it. The dynamics of the track are particularly fantastic - the contrast of the ringing guitars and the punchy strings really provide a sense of imperfection strewn across the track, making it all the more big. The pace immediately shifts in the funky track 'Losers,' featuring Labrinth. The groovy piano riff that introduces the song eventually becomes a synth that rings awesomely. The end of the track is jazzy, with brass and watery guitars jamming above the spiraling synths.
The features on this record definitely add to the album's success story. The main attractions for this are at the end. Ed Sheeran (who was then riding off of the huge popularity of X) brings his soul on 'Dark Times,' though it does feel like The Weeknd doesn't really have a commanding lead on this track - his style pretty much mimics Sheeran's with a bit of his own energy in there, but as the song progresses he definitely becomes more comfortable in his place. The two dueting at the end of the track is just great, the strings rising awesomely with the track. Lana Del Ray in 'Prisoner' is a fantastic combination, too, her silky, moody vocals fitting wonderfully above the dark and synth chords of the track. The melodies are simply epic, rising up to huge places with thousands of harmonies backing them.
The talent of this record doesn't come from its collaborators, though - The Weeknd has some raw talent in him. Take a look at single 'The Hills,' the epic and brooding instrumental accentuated by The Weeknd's strong voice and badass delivery. It's a self-worshiping song about drug use and sex, but it's laced with a certain sensuality that gives it groove apart from its meaning. It's constantly changing, as well, making it an entirely entrancing song. 'Earned It (Fifty Shades Of Grey)' is similar, it's proper and punchy string instrumental focussing strongly on dynamics to bring out the song's sensuality. It builds dramatically, with The Weeknd's voice soaring above the flowing instrumental.
The sheer amount of sounds on this record is pretty impressive, as well. The funk experiment that is the end of 'Losers' ultimately transitions to the dramatic, 80's glam rock epic 'Angels' at the end of the record, filled with lovely harmonies and a longing delivery from The Weeknd. He strips things back in 'Shameless,' an acoustic song that builds up with an electrifying guitar solo near the end. The darkness and moodiness of 'Acquainted' is a good representation of this record stylistically, but even this track has a much more trap-oriented influence on it than others.
Beauty Behind The Massive is a big record no matter how you look at it. In sound, it's huge, combining a wide amount of genres together into one constantly changing body of work. Performance-wise, it was one of the most popular records of the year, ultimately making The Weeknd a household name. The record was a recipe for success for The Weeknd, and it's easy to see why. Starboy may be a poppier departure from this album, but his sound will forever be rooted in the elements of this one.
Favorite Tracks: Angel, Prisoner, Shameless, The Hills
Least Favorite Track: Often
Rating: 88 / 100
Buy or listen to Beauty Behind The Madness here: