Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

The Weeknd – Wicked Games

Why didntcha love him?


Iain Mew: The shuddering bass is great. Everything else hits an uncomfortable half-sleazy note that never convinces, from the non-committal swearing to terrible lines like “I’m on that shit that you can’t smell” and “bring your body baby, I could bring you fame”. He doesn’t even sound like he believes in them himself, but doesn’t do anything interesting with the idea of being a guy just running with lines either.

Patrick St. Michel: It’s tough to remember with all of the diminishing returns on subsequent albums and how so many other artists have taken their style into interesting new directions, but The Weeknd’s House Of Balloons is a great album.  “Wicked Games” does a solid job of showcasing what made The Weeknd sound so exciting a year and a half ago when they appeared out of the digital ether – the production is all shadowy gloom, always on the verge of tripping into an even darker place than it’s already in.  Abel Berihun Tesfaye’s voice sounds great, and the chemical-obsessed characters in “Wicked Games” seem more complex, unlike the characters on the next two Weeknd albums who just sounded like misognyst assholes on drugs. 

Anthony Easton: It’s too long, but the self loathing and lamentation, moaned out over an unstable background of exquisite beats and even more exquisite pain is a wrestling match between eros and pathos, drawn out to a hip breaking tie. 

Alfred Soto: A freshly scrubbed version of a track recorded when Nancy Pelosi was Speaker of the House, “Wicked Games” actually has more resonance now that Frank Ocean and Usher have raked in dough with their better realized “dark” R&B. The scrubbing adds no sheen to Abel Tesfaye’s pinched emotional reach though. 

Katherine St Asaph: It’s a Weeknd song, an old one at that, which means a few things automatically apply. The track seethes and crunches like something off Mezzanine. Abel’s fucked up on falsetto and prowling for sex that’ll end in tears. Someone’s playing someone, although sussing out the dynamics is as useless in music as in life. (Pleading like this can only come of repeated rebuffs — but no, that’s what he wants you to think.) The formula’s so precise there can only be minor deviations — in this case, the chorus being a cockblock.

Brad Shoup: I know this is an artifact of the heady, pre-rubbable GIF days of 2011, but its callow spellcasting still fizzles. Could it be a stylistic choice? He’s putting his fame and bank accounts up as collateral; I suppose he may not have much in the way of either. “Let me see you dance/I love to see you dance,” sneers Mr. Weeknd, in full RKO villain mode. Tack on his hammy handling of the F-bomb and it’s something sad, but only so far as this broken-beautiful dragger was even conceived.

Jonathan Bogart: I’m uncouth enough to not be sure what being “on that shit that you can’t smell” is, but whatever it is it’s doing him a world of good, bringing his music into sharper focus and giving his singing an externality that puts his everpresent neediness into an identifiable social context. Oh wait, it’s cocaine, isn’t it?

One Response to “The Weeknd – Wicked Games”

  1. I’d never heard The Weeknd, then I spent a week mesmerized by a freestyle video by Dirdy Birdy, the Michelle Kwan of pole dancing, to this song. Then the remaster of this song showed up in TSJ.

    I wish I were in time to review it, but I’m not sure I can even divorce the track from this accidental context — its reification as Herod’s lament from Oscar Wilde. I am sad to-night. Therefore dance for me. Dance for me, Salome, I beseech thee. If thou dancest for me thou mayest ask of me what thou wilt, and I will give it thee… It convinced me because she was convincing, rather than he.

    I have the suspicion that if this were a Frank Ocean song, it would have been titled “Salome” outright.