Although I could review this project as three different tapes, instead I’m going to break it down into one review focusing on all three mixtapes that The Weeknd initially released before releasing it as a commercial studio debut LP.
Firstly, the opening track, which has Abel crooning over a thumping bass and singing heavenly over the intense drum background accompanying bass, it is a perfect introductory track for The Weeknd fans who are looking for something not as commercially appetising as his most recent Pop efforts.
The second track, ‘What You Need‘, The Weeknd’s vocals are pitched slightly quieter than the beat, however, this is not a problem. The monotonous sound with dreamy keys, a shaker-like instrument in the chorus and a House like bass shows that not only is The Weeknd a listener and fan of R&B but adds a darker and druggier sound than that of other artists alike to him.
Moving on, a highlight off this section of ‘House of Balloons’ as well as the entire of ‘Trilogy’ is the self-titled intense double house party track, ‘House of Balloons / Glass Table Girls‘. He talks about the extensive drug-use him and his crew would get up to as well as their influence over friends, particularly females, who would come to the parties he would host before the fame. However, at around the 3:32 mark of the track, the beat switches up to a darker and more Hip-Hop inspired instrumental, which has Abel harmonising as well as showcasing a rap-like flow, depicting how cocaine, a continuous popularising drug in todays culture. Sadly, he doesn’t showcase this diversity as much since getting picked up by Republic Records.
“But when the stars shine back to the crib
Superstar lines back at the crib
And we can test out the tables
Got some brand new tables
All glass and it’s four feet wide
But it’s a must to get us ten feet high” – The Weeknd, ‘Glass Table Girls’
One of the slower yet more pop-sounding tracks on the mixtape, ‘The Morning‘ is a definite standout. It’s a sexy ode to recovering from the night before and a follow up to the previous track. The beat has looped guitar strings, a funky bassline, distorted ad-libs of The Weeknd’s vocals on the chorus and a smooth drum pattern. Abel flows effortlessly on the track and depicts a party lifestyle only he knows and could be a part of.
Other songs that stand out on the ‘House of Balloons’ part of the ‘Trilogy’ is ‘Loft Music‘, which Abel tells the explicit story of taking a girl he knows up to his loft to “Play with keys all day”.
Thursday (‘Lonely Star’ – ‘Heaven or Las Vegas’)
Progressing towards the second part of the album, ‘Thursday‘, immediately from the first track of the new section, it is obvious there is a slightly darker, sadder and more aggressive tone. The following track from ‘The Knowing’ is ‘Lonely Star‘, the other main character in Abel’s story revolving around drugs, sex, depression and loneliness. Although Abel tries to emotionally connect with the mysterious ‘Thursday Girl’, the only way to get her attention is through “the cars, the clothes, the jewels, the sex, and the house”.
Progressing from the previous ominous and depressing ‘Lonely Star’, the track straight after is another dark and niche Weeknd song. ‘Life of The Party‘ contains muffled vocals, a thumping drum backing track with hazy hi-hats and gritty guitars. The track describes The Weeknd’s ambition to influence women to come out with him and take drugs by disguising his cruel intentions through the use of drugs.
Out of all three mixtapes, only two guest features pop up. The first one is from previous XOVO collaborator, Drake. On ‘The Zone‘ Illangelo and Doc McKinney provide emotional keys over a heartbeat of a bass. The Weeknd, sings on the dark yet fearless track about his relationships between multiple girls, yet only thinking of ‘Thursday Girl’. A standout lyric is the exceptionally visually yet heart-wrenching “I’ll be making love to her through you
So let me keep my eyes closed”. Drake provides a cool verse for the track, rapping in his typical sad and lonely tone, adding the same dimension of themes The Weeknd does.
“She said make enough so I can try some
I thought taking drugs just ain’t you, be you
Yeah girl, just be you” – Drake
‘The Birds (Part 1)‘ and ‘The Birds (Part 2)‘ are also incredible solo standouts from The Weeknd’s discography as well as on the ‘Thursday’ project. He tells the ‘Thursday Girl’ “Don’t make me make you fall in love with a nigga like me, Nobody needs to fall in love”. Straight after that, he say’s he’s just “another bird”. Saying that he won’t be around her forever and provide her with the lavish and experimental lifestyle as he begins reaching fame. On ‘The Birds (Part 2)’, it is a complete switch up of tone as well as pace. It begins with the crying continued from ‘Lonely Star’ and a sudden gunshot. ‘Thursday Girl’ is angered by the nihilistic actions of The Weeknd and begs him to stay with her by offering him pills to keep up their emotionless-based relationship. However, she instead has killed one of the girls he has been seeing. The song is told through the perspective of The Weeknd yet as an eagles-eye view aura. This would make sense in regards to the idea of him being a bird and he will eventually just ‘fly away’ and find other women to interact with.
Other highlights off this section of the album is the electronic ballad ‘Gone‘, an 8-minute freestyle, according to Abel, which showcases his talent in a light different to that on his more commercial releases. He describes the effects drugs and alcohol have on him and how the only interaction he is interested in taking part of is using women for their sexuality and taking enough drugs to “feel gone”. The beat is supplied with panning keyboard keys, glitchy synths and an unorthodox bassline. In the final verse, primarily supported by heavy drum kicks, The Weeknd details his activities with women while under the influence of medicated narcotics, in this case, lean.
“And you’ll never fuckin’ know
I’ll never fuckin’ show it
Except when I be wheezy from another cup of potion
Dirty Sprite toastin’
Fast life, fuck slow
Low life for life” – The Weeknd
To conclude, ‘Thursday’ is a darker, leaner and more ferocious sound than ‘House of Balloons’. The songs are weighed up by The Weeknd’s intense vocal delivery and his ability to sing over experimental production, that at the time, only he could perform over.
Finally, we move on to ‘Echoes of Silence‘, the darkest and strongest part of ‘Trilogy’.
The opening track to the final part of ‘Trilogy’ is a cover of The King of Pop, Michael Jackson‘s, ‘Dirty Diana‘, which I assume for copyright reasons and the recreation of the beat, it was titled ‘D.D.‘. On the first verse alone, there is an uncanny resemblance to the voice of one of the greatest to ever live. Although the track is only a cover, it is still a great inclusion of Abel’s forever building discography.
The following up track, ‘Montreal‘ is a slight change in perception of how The Weeknd will be affected by the women who he meets in his life. In this instance, instead of him being the one who leaves them, it’ll be them leaving him. As well as this, he makes a reference back to his previous mixtape and concept of ‘Thursday Girl’.
“‘Cuz ain’t nobody feels the way that I feel when I’m alone
So if I said that I won’t call
The lying comes natural to me
You probably could have had it all
You could have been that lonely star” – The Weeknd
‘Outside‘ is another fabulous and melancholy solo track from Abel. The beat is supported by a crunching bass and erratic drum pattern and African-like symbols. He describes the sexual encounter he would have with women if they have sex with him and enforces the metaphor that once his listeners start becoming enticed by his music, they won’t want to “go outside” as you’d just be too obsessed with the idea of him (If he had stayed like this, with this sound, then I definitely would’ve just stayed inside all the time).
The fourth track ‘XO/The Host‘ is by far one of, the most impressive Weeknd tracks ever. This double sided track begins with strings panning across your headphones before being taken over by drums and faint guitar rips. Abel details that ‘XO’ is his clique and what his crew get up to on the regular.
“I love it when your eyes are red
Ah yea, are you on my cloud yet?
Cause I got a brand new cam, can we video feed, can we POV
Why? I wanna catch you at your best” – The Weeknd.
However, as the second side of the song starts to transition in, Abel talks to one of the girls he’s supposedly with about wanting to her to be part of him. Throughout his mixtapes, he keeps the theme of him being this narcissistic individual who only wants benefits for himself. ‘The Host’ is one of the darkest tracks he has recorded and over the electronic synths and his harmonies, he beats the track with boisterous vocals and intense lyrics.
“You said you want me
But I remember who you are
And girl, it wasn’t long ago
Didn’t think I’d go this far” – The Weeknd
The last five tracks of the album and ‘Echoes of Silence’ mixtape are some of Abel’s greatest tracks. The particularly druggy ‘Initiation‘, distorts The Weeknd’s vocals to multiple pitches as to that of him being under the influence of multiple drugs. Specifically cocaine and codeine. If DJ Screw were still about, I’d have loved to hear him give his own Chopped & Screwed version of the track.
The next song ‘Same Old Song‘ which features the always ‘trippy mane’, Juicy J, is another great addition to Trilogy. The Weeknd sings of a relationship or a girl who uses him for his drugs and to gain something out of his wealth and fame. However, Abel has met numerous women like this and sings of them frequently throughout all three mixtapes. In this instance, he knows what she’s like and too him, she’s not that special but just the ‘Same Old Song’. Sadly, although Juicy is credited as a feature on the track, his brief appearance it a waste as he only adds a short but hilarious interlude at the end. Obviously, he does his typical ‘SHUT THE FUCK UP MANE’ / ‘ WE TRIPPY MANE’ ad-libs and chats shit regardlessly. However, this and ‘One of Those Nights‘ are the only two official tracks the two have come together to do. Yet, Juicy is never scared to show his appreciation for the Canadian superstar and has sampled him for multiple records; one of which is off his major debut album ‘Stay Trippy‘ as well as most recently, ‘Road to Sri Lanka‘ off his ‘Lit in Ceylon‘ tape.
The final song and self-titled, ‘Echoes of Silence‘ is Abel’s most minimalist and vocally outstanding track. Singing heartbrokenly over luscious synths and deep emotional keys, it is a perfect outroduction to the ‘Trilogy’.
Not only throughout each project does The Weeknd show off his diverse ability to sing, rap or croon over a variety of instrumentals ranging from Techno-House, Hip-Hop, R&B and Rock, he shows that at this point in time, he was truly a musical force to not be screwed with.
If it were only bliss if The Weeknd hadn’t been found and picked up by the majors.