Artists Of The Year

CMU Artists Of The Year 2011: The Weeknd

By | Published on Tuesday 6 December 2011

The Weeknd

A dark, downbeat confection of songcraft and samples, swirled through with a lush falsetto, and made shadowy flesh by Canadian producer-singer-songwriter Abel Tesfaye. I’m talking, of course, about The Weeknd, who this year confounded critics with his debut mixtape, ‘House Of Balloons’, and its sequel, ‘Thursday’. Both materialised on the social media scenery by sudden and mysterious means, made freely available for download on The Weeknd site, and conjured a fireball of fuss from the little anyone could glean of Tesfaye’s past or present.

And he didn’t do much to dispel the myth; releasing only a set of inscrutable black-and-white promo shots; seldom speaking, and instead letting others speak for him. “He’s one of the greatest artists I’ve ever heard. To hear someone with an incredible body of work is very rare. It’s very inspiring”, said an enamoured Drake – Tesfaye’s countryman and label co-signant – back in summertime. “I’m proud of him. He works real hard. He’s just an incredible person, [and has] become a really close friend to me”.

Kinship having blossomed into professional alliance, the duo’s first official collaboration came when Drake featured on ‘Thursday’ cut ‘The Zone’, keeping back his verses as low-key complements to the track’s tail-end. And as Drake’s own sophomore set, ‘Take Care’, holds sway over today’s charts, two of it’s shining moments (the insular ‘Crew Love’, and finale ‘The Ride’) are credited to The Weeknd, whose penchant for night-time debauch aligns itself so well with (and is likely part inspired by) Drake’s own.

For proof of Tesfaye as master musical manipulator, you need only look to this remix of Florence And The Machine’s ‘Shake It Out’. Leeched of its folksy shine, Florence’s lead vocal is smashed to smithereens and countered with a low, muted throb of synth distortion and tinny percussive loops. It’s steeped in the same perpetual half-light that drenches The Weeknd’s work at large; sipping down its intoxicating selfhood and turning, dizzily, upon a dim sphere of Tesfaye’s sonic design.

Third in the mixtape trilogy and originally slated for an autumn release, ‘Echoes Of Silence’, now seems overdue, but in it’s stead, take the standout ‘Thursday’ sounds of ‘The Birds Part 1’.

Find more of CMU’s ten Artists Of The Year here.