Friday, August 21st, 2015

The Weeknd – The Hills

We just don’t feel that face.


Katherine St Asaph: I keep saying I like The Weeknd less when he’s only portraying a moderately awful person, and then he goes full sociopath and I’m proven wrong. Surprising no one, “The Hills” tries to have its Top 40 spot and disown it too: “when I’m fucked-up, that’s the real me.” It’s all tiresomely meta; Abel may claim he’s not trying to pander to those fans of his, the ones who want Trilogy Pt. 2: Relapse, but what other function could “I’m just trying to get you out of the friend zone” possibly serve? The premise, as usual, is “Dissolved Girl” chopped-and-screwed, which would be an OK idea from anyone but Illangelo and Abel. His vocals sound like they were recorded in two different sessions, one fucked-up one not, pre- and post-sellout: one with his Sadean tendencies (singer, not libertine) gone guttural, one a hook polished to A&R gleam. The dubious timeline — first he’s only seen photos, then they’re regularly shamefucking — suggests this may in fact be the case. The rest is a clip show: more drugs, more lies, more sordidly late hours, more terrible performance in bed (“trying to keep it up don’t seem so simple / I just fucked two bitches before I saw you, and you’re going to have to do it at my tempo”), more victims boringly victimized. Having heard Lisa Germano sample a woman’s terrified screams, further instances are normally forever on the Nope, Never list for me, especially sampled by men. But this instance doesn’t even manage disturbing, not when paired with creepy-child horrorcore and The Hills Have Eyes references — which is somehow even dumber than when I thought the title’d refer to Laguna Beach. I mean, what else is there to say at this point? It’s like marathoning the Roosh series. Except somehow less fun.

Thomas Inskeep: “When I’m fucked up, that’s the real me,” he says, trying to get in her pants by telling her what a nasty motherfucker he is, punctuated by a woman’s screams, unsettlingly used like a whistling teakettle. “The hills have eyes,” he croons, just to drive home the point that this is horror. Against a sludgy trap&b beat, the Weeknd casually tosses out killer lines like “drugs started feeling like it’s decaf,” and while I find “The Hills” incredibly disturbing – well, that’s clearly the point, and I can’t help but admire the craft. 

Brad Shoup: Everybody has to speak whatever truth he can piece together, and he’s free to embellish it with a sound that combines a woman’s scream with a teakettle. And he can demand concessions to his refractory period and current intake. And he can process his vocal until he’s even more wheedly. And he can add an Amharic tag that implies that the (already heavily implied) object of his intentions is hung up on him too. Add it all up, and I feel like we’ve been cracking on the wrong Classic Man.

Alfred Soto: Three top tens in 2015 under his moniker, each a depiction of a man wracked by sexual narcissism so complete that I’m sure he crafts them in the studio with his beats for the sake of “think pieces” everywhere. “Who are you to judge?” he asks in falsetto over a duplicate of a Maybach Music rhythm.  “When I’m fucked up, it’s the real me.” I don’t deny that his command of shifting textures and voices is impressive. I don’t doubt that he benefits from an implicit disgust with feminism — he’s calling women bitches who should be grateful that he’s boning them. But however impressive his formal command it isn’t enough to subsume the impact of his words. Rick James was a nasty piece of work in song without anyone knowing a thing about his bibulous private life. That’s Abel Tesfaye’s truest forebear, not Prince or MJ.

Patrick St. Michel: What’s made The Weeknd so easy to hate is that Abel Tesfaye’s rise to massive popularity has coincided with his lyrics turning proudly obnoxious. Which isn’t to say The Weeknd were Boy Scouts on earlier albums, or even that a pop star needs to be a shining moral lighthouse — but it’s far more interesting than earnestly singing about the friendzone. At least House Of Balloons made his lifestyle sound suffocating (and the production was way better; this just sounds needlessly aggressive). Now he revels in it, and “The Hills” just sounds like Tesfaye preparing his Ashley Madison hack defense.

Natasha Genet Avery: “The Hills” opens with a thundering synth that announces that The Weeknd hasn’t forsaken his brooding hedonism in light of his swift chart takeover. In fact, his vocals on the verse almost feel as if they’re compensating for his pop ambitions, each line trailing off into a pitchless grumble as he recounts yet another tale of drugs and lust. And before he fades completely, a chilling horror movie scream sample leads into the chorus. Just as a horror movie forces the viewer to relinquish control, imbuing every moment with the anticipation of fear, having an affair deals in thrills and constant unease. In that scream, “The Hills” captures that teetering feeling perfectly. Then, the bass drops, and I’m sold.

Ramzi Awn: A song for the stans. That isn’t to say it is not good, but the production value and lyrics combined leaves room for speculation.

Jonathan Bradley: Abel Tesfaye doesn’t need to wail about the hills having eyes for us to know he lives a horror movie: it’s been a constant throughout his career. Sometimes that works, as with the skeevy hedonism of House of Balloons or the dread not dispelled by the slick propulsion of “Can’t Feel My Face.” But slasher shrieks and Stygian bass can’t keep this flick out of B-grade territory. “I’m just tryna get you out the friend zone” is skin-crawling in a bad way, and even that’s a diversion from a first verse that sounds like someone narrating his efforts to reprogram his Navman. Relocating his seamy narratives from downtown lofts to suburban McMansions is a neat way for The Weeknd to keep the franchise alive, but it’s no help when it simultaneously shifts the mood from numbed to dead. It takes effort to make infidelity sound boring.

Reader average: [6.72] (11 votes)

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2 Responses to “The Weeknd – The Hills”

  1. here’s the chipmunk version in case anyone was interested

  2. i kinda was