Monday, June 22nd, 2015

The Weeknd – Can’t Feel My Face

Just hold on…


Maxwell Cavaseno: In which Abel Tesfaye continues to offer diminishing returns as a songwriter, instead going FULL MJ and forsaking any hope of keeping me thrilled, Honestly, at first hearing him attempt disco-funk was a bit of a refreshing turn given that while his production has finally improved vastly since Kiss Land, the issue still remains that the more Abel succeeds these days, the more and more shockingly his greatest gifts vanish into the haze, only to reward him further. Am I just getting more tolerant, or is The Weeknd’s fanbase settling for anything just to trick themselves into thinking this is a worthy fix?

Katherine St Asaph: The sound you hear is a million House of Balloons stans crying, bawling, BELLYACHING into their computer screens, into the cheap beer they fantasize makes them druggy antihero lotharios just like Abe, now that the old Weeknd’s sold out, cleaned up, got the Max. And I love it. Like, even before “Earned It” or “Love Me Harder” did anyone doubt for a second that this guy wouldn’t leap at the chance to go Top 40? Gives you some respect for Drake. Even better: it works. Someone somewhere must have noticed — given ample chances, don’t be impressed — that the Weeknd sounds more like Michael than any of the other twelve hundred dudes who’ve attempted this sound in the past three years. (Which puts him closer to Ne-Yo than Jacko, but we’re grading on a curve.) The track is a series of brownouts. The flashes and choruses of party-go-lucky disco lixx take up less time than the parts where Abe groans through synths that sound like hangovers taste; like a song’s bridge, if that bridge was almost too fucked-up to stand. The Weeknd is in character, naturally, but here he’s only stage-two creepazoid; it’s like a Trilogy track if Lana Del Rey was script doctor. Yes, I love it. You know what else makes you not feel your face? DELICIOUS TEARS.

Natasha Genet Avery: What makes this such a banger is that Tesfaye draws from Off the Wall, an album of indisputable danceability, without making “Can’t Feel My Face” feel dated. The bassline, funky and overdriven, evokes the late Louis Johnson but also complements the crispness of the House percussion and synth lines. And in The Weeknd’s rendition of MJ’s signature exhalations and vocalizations, those animalistic sounds of sex or indulgence help propel the love/drugs metaphor.

Scott Mildenhall: The opening verse is smoke and lasers in a dingy warehouse, potently portentous, building and building through presence alone. Then the lights come on — some, not all — and it fakes out into a non-chorus; a catchphrase. More than numb, The Weeknd sounds zombified, and in that sense if it’s any Michael Jackson song it’s “Thriller.” From that point more of the lights go on, and there are backing dancers deadpanning suitably moody choreography. All imaginary at this stage, but it’s good to dream.

Ramzi Awn: I can’t feel my face. But I love the bass, and his voice, and the arrangement, and the drums. He told me don’t worry about it, and I believe him.

Alfred Soto: Of course “she said don’t worry about it” — when Abel Tesfaye’s characters have doped and coked as much as they claim, any addled fantasy will look like Technicolor. But the fantasy sounds real, despite his terrible hair. Four on the floor helps. Hits help! “Love Me Harder” and the execrable “Earned It” are a step out of a fetid room. But just think what Miguel would’ve done with this conceit. While Tesfaye insists she should feel grateful that he made his cheeks numb and put cavities in his teeth, the courtly Miguel would have persuaded me that sex is prefatory to great coffee in the morning.

Brad Shoup: Top comment on Genius is “I love that mainstream radio will think that this is a love song!” So I say “yay” to the thumbtapping groove as I kick the text down the deepest well.

Thomas Inskeep: I’ve never been a particularly big fan, but I recall not that long ago when the Weeknd was making moody, atmospheric R&B. Now apparently it’s time to cash checks and make use of his new higher 50 Shades-impacted profile, by making generic pop records with Max Martin, who’s done more distinctive work with just about everyone he’s ever worked with. This isn’t terrible; it isn’t anything.

Crystal Leww: You know, I have not liked a Weeknd song in a very long time, but surprisingly, this passes the Speeding On a Texas Highway In a Minivan Blaring From The Radio test.

Andy Hutchins: I was, I will confess, somewhat surprised when professional karaoke performer Bruno Mars triangulated Prince and Michael Jackson so well on “Treasure.” So imagine my shock to learn that The Weeknd, whose stank stylings have largely nauseated from first whiff, was the guy behind the very capable Jacko impressions here! The song suffers when it’s an Abel Tesfaye original and not striving to transcend his abilities — but 20-30 seconds of a very capable Michael Jackson impression so far surpasses what many vocals on pop radio even aspire to, for better or worse, even if it’s in service of a rather poorly-disguised “Sex on drugs is fun!” song. (What a roll The Cardigans’ former frontman Peter Svensson is on, by the way: “Can’t Feel My Face” follows in the vein of the Ariana/Weeknd S&M-For-Dummies march “Love Me Harder” and the bizarrely successful Sage the Gemini/Nick Jonas “Good Thing” — but he has a co-writing credit on “I Really Like You,” too!)

Reader average: [7.14] (7 votes)

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