The Weeknd has always had a knack for breaking the fourth wall through music. Whether by outright asking Who are you to judge?, like he does in 2015's "The Hills," or through his now-signature production amplifying his subjects' (often his own) cocky invincibility, like in "The Fall," from 2011, Abel Tesfaye is aware of his actions. Some might consider him shameless. For an artist that's more or less an R&B singer, "love" was, up until now, a word seldom found in his vocabulary. Now he has a number-one single where he utters it 24 times. What happened between the major-label packaging of his exquisite 2011 Balloons Trilogy mixtapes in 2012 and his third album Beauty Behind the Madness, out August 28? Well, festivals, but it was a song with Ariana Grande and a feature on the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack that quickly pushed the boy famous for his unapologetic drug use and carnal debauchery out into the mainstream. And for a brief moment, it seemed like he was beginning to regret his actions; he would succumb to the candy coating of pop. His latest project, thankfully, begs to differ.
Beauty Behind the Madness is exactly what you want it to be: A healthy fusion of pop and R&B that's both ominous and alluring. There's a feeling that we will, perhaps, get to see a more sensitive side of The Weeknd; that his self-serving and heartless actions are going to catch up with him. We started the BBTM era with him walking away from a car crash as the sun rose over another sleepless night. The comedown was beginning to set in. Never mind that "Often" and "Earned It," two tracks released before the "The Hills," more aligned with The Weeknd's past work; Rick Wilder's presence in his subsequent videos as some taunting sort of personification of his dark side alluded to a change of heart.