On “Mysterious” Artists and If The Weeknd Lost His Luster

On “Mysterious” Artists and If The Weeknd Lost His Luster

For all the great things it does for music (and the rest of the world), the Internet can cause some equally fucked up things. One of those happens to be oversaturation, something you know full well if you have ever started and maintained a music site. The struggle to keep up with everything new that arrives is a constant one that has no concept of time or integrity. It builds an ungodly amount of thirst, aka the need to get attention, keep it, and retain relevance. Too often this results in an artist spreading him or herself way, way too thin.

It could appear bratty to complain about all this new music, much of which is free and can just be avoided by, you know, staying off the Internet. But hear me out: this necessity for some artists to flood our newsfeeds, timelines, and the like with a constant barrage of new songs, videos, teasers, covers, photo shoots, etc… is nothing short of unbearable.

And all of this has been on my mind as we now see the release of the Weeknd’s first “official” project, Trilogy. It’s not the actual debut album most of us wanted but rather a compilation of his highly successful three mixtapes—House of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes of Silence—that dropped for free back in 2011. All the music has been completely remastered and properly mixed, making for a crisp, vibrant effort that basically abandons the raw edge that made Abel Tesfaye and company’s sound so endearing in the first place.

Additionally, there was that air of mystery surrounding the Weeknd when House of Balloons arrived in March 2011. No one knew anything about Tesfaye, then-collaborator Jeremy “Zodiac” Rose, and their team of studio players aside from what was on the record. While plenty of folks were busy trying to figure out the identity of everyone involved—I can’t front, my interest was piqued—we were all mostly swept up in the fact that something so fucking great could come out of nowhere.

Of course, nothing really does just drop out of the sky and into our virtual laps like that. There are marketing teams behind everything, from Odd Future’s bad-assery to Lil B’s absurdity to, well, the Weeknd’s mysteriousness. What better way to build a buzz than drop some fantastic music that has people both listening and constantly searching for answers?

The downside to creating a buzz through these means is that you’re eventually going to be found out. Remember when Complex was able to track down Earl Sweatshirt because some kid at the same school in Samoa leaked photos of him? When it comes to the Internet, no one can really be that mysterious; unless of course you’re on the deep web. *shudder*

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  1. Slascaro
    Nov 30, 2012 @ 03:06:00

    Has no one here heard Valerie? I love the new tracks released with the Trilogy and have a fresh sound. I have hope. I think we’ve only scratched the surface of The Weeknd’s talent with Trilogy.

  2. rp
    Nov 25, 2012 @ 14:26:00

    just give him a minute. damn.

  3. Andrew Martin
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 13:05:00

    definitely impressive, i’m still not the biggest fan of how it was handled though

  4. WiredRacing
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 11:40:00

    Hey Andrew, so it’s been a week. Looks like it’ll be around 100,000 copies sold in the US. #2 album on iTunes right now. So not as many copies as Ocean but considering these albums are 11-20 months old and were offered for free, I’d say this is pretty impressive, especially for a Canadian artist. Even Palmer who was offering the album for $1 during the kickstarter campaign and also has a “free version” available managed to debut in 10th and sell 24K copies with 93% being online purchases. Even for free music, there’s a market there to make some money, more if you have no label taking it’s cut. (BTW, I wasn’t suggesting music consumers knew who Frank was prior to Ultra, I’m just saying I think he had more inroads, a bit more opportunity). The one problem with what Abel has done though is his followup will have to be amazing. Frequent releases would give him some leeway and keep him relevant.. but, again.. 1-1.5 years later, he’s still selling the same album.

  5. bipolar sunshine
    Nov 18, 2012 @ 10:06:00

    true , i hope he can reshape he’s sound ,but i believe the majority of the general public still don’t even know he exists yet ….

  6. Andrew Martin
    Nov 13, 2012 @ 16:08:00

    Good question.

    Also, haven’t heard the Weeknd on the radio yet. Thanks for that.

  7. R
    Nov 13, 2012 @ 16:02:00

    And The Weeknd is on the radio… Hot 97 Playlist TWICE!

    Not being a “mainstream” artist is apart of his appeal tho…


  8. R
    Nov 13, 2012 @ 15:58:00

    I think Odd future proved that they aren’ going away as well… Is this about becoming a huge popstar or about having an appeal?

  9. Khaled
    Nov 13, 2012 @ 15:34:00

    Honestly, after “House of Balloons” (which was brilliant), I lost interest in the weeknd. It all started to sound the same…scratch that, it actually started to sound worse. This goes to show how production is important which brings me to another turn off about the weeknd which is his fall out with zodiac (not cool). I would totally agree that IF we were to have Frank Ocean vs The Weeknd from an artistic perspective, I think that Frank definitely wins by a long shot. Frank managed to grow much more as an artist and is much more lyrically versatile.

  10. Jimmy Branley
    Nov 13, 2012 @ 10:35:00

    I definitely see where you’re coming from here, but I can’t help to think that The Trilogy rerelease is a label thing. Compared to most other mixtapes, The Trilogy only had a few samples to clear. In my opinion, selling them makes sense and as a fan, I have no problem problem forking over ten bucks to pay for three albums I’ve listened to over and over again. One reason Nostalgia, ULTRA wouldn’t have worked as a release is the sheer amount of instrumentals he sang over (strawberry swing, there will be tears, american wedding, and nature feels).

    I also struggle to compare FO and The Weeknd. They’re doing two very different things in their music. They’re both doing awesome things, but they’re different. People label them both as R&B, but I don’t even know if that label fits. Can you really compare either of them to, say, R. Kelly? Or Trey Songz? I think we’re in the middle of a big shift in the genre and rather than comparing what they’ve done in a year and a half, I think we should see what happens in five. The truth is, both have succeeded at receiving critical acclaim and listeners. Just through different methods.

  11. tsrobodo
    Nov 13, 2012 @ 09:15:00

    The list is a lot longer than you think.

  12. Andrew Martin
    Nov 13, 2012 @ 07:57:00

    Frank & Miguel are better. And I like House of Balloons, pretty sure I made that clear here. Read past the headline.

  13. Andrew Martin
    Nov 13, 2012 @ 07:57:00

    Not the same thing, though. OFWGKTA sell out shows all the time and they’re not on the radio. They have a niche and strong following, just like the Weeknd. Ain’t shit to do with buzz.

  14. Andrew Martin
    Nov 13, 2012 @ 07:56:00

    I’d much rather he take 3-4 years after releasing something so that it’s not overkill.

  15. Andrew Martin
    Nov 13, 2012 @ 07:55:00

    I am building my surroundings. Look at around this site.

  16. Andrew Martin
    Nov 13, 2012 @ 07:55:00

    This has nothin to do with Complex, bruh

  17. Ugh
    Nov 13, 2012 @ 07:38:00

    He had 3 sold out shows in NYC…. 3 shows in a row! The guy has a buzz

  18. Dandamaaan
    Nov 13, 2012 @ 07:37:00

    I think we all can see that Abel knows what he’s doing. All his moves have been calculated. The Weeknd has ‘limited’ himself in a way, that Frank hasn’t… but The Weekend puts out better music. And The Weeknd puts out r&b music that only he can. Miguel seems to be influenced by The Weekend but he can’t make it and make it feel real (“Drugs”)

    The Weekend may not have a long career in terms of putting out a zillion albums, but I think if he only does 3 albums, he’ll do 3 classic albums that we listen too until we’re old and mustic that only he and his team could have done.

  19. hazelton
    Nov 13, 2012 @ 01:54:00

    IMO House of Balloons had some great songs, but as a whole, I thought Echoes of Silence was a lot better.

  20. R O C K _ well
    Nov 13, 2012 @ 01:27:00

    Andrew Martin- Do you know what is worse than falling in-love with a sound and style of music or art in particular…. is being on the other end, and simply reacting. You have reacted to a piece of material that a group of people have created. You can’t come up with it yourself so you bitch. You moan and complain to what you will never be able to do. You default to drugs, women and sadness as his weakness. I don’t excuse any of that. What you forget, is that the very thing you hate, is probably what made him gain your trust in the first place. Again, I don’t condone any of his actions in which he partakes. I simply don’t care that he is selling music. I’ve paid for his performance and not regretted it. For that moment everyone in the crowd was pleased. More will come, and whether it’s as good as the first mixtape or not, it has nothing to do with you or your opinion. Your thoughts amount to a pixel on the internet that will be forgotten by tomorrow. This type of behavior will continue and evolution not only in music will happen this way. It’s for you to decide whether to “buy” into it or simply find a way around consuming. Build your surroundings, don’t complain about it.

  21. Zack Lueken
    Nov 13, 2012 @ 00:17:00

    This is the most ignorant fucking post I’ve ever read. The writer who posted this just trying to be the one who pointed out a “could be” fad.The Weeknd will never lose his luster. If anyone took a second out of their fucking closed minds to see outside the box, Abel has had one hundred percent of this predicted. He’s a god. Fuck ya’ll. Complex is run by a bruncha fuckin would be’s and wanna be’s hungry for gossip just like anyother forum. fuck this fake shit. XO til I OD mutha fuck

  22. Phil
    Nov 12, 2012 @ 22:34:00

    How are three mixtapes and a dozen of old demos in the span of a year (or even two) not an overload? You’re making it sound like he’s greedy and stuck at a dead end. What these three mixtapes did was give him bargaining power when negotiating a record deal. They’re still his babies, and he has every right in the world to release them, for posterity’s sake. He is above all a musician who are, as far as I remember, human beings. Without revealing everything about his life, it’s only normal he didn’t want to put so much effort in mystery as his fanbase grows, his stage skills strengthen and his music spreads. The real problem is that in this age of the Internet, blogs and media move on so quickly and forget to truly enjoy the music. The dude’s 22 years old and has released a trio of stellar mixtapes, the oldest of which isn’t even two years old. It’s way too early to be talking of him and his producers being “stuck”. Remember when R&B artists took three, four years before releasing even a single track? He’s been working super hard and delivered, much like Frank, some of the coolest R&B in years. Cut the boy some slack.

    Man the things we complain about…

  23. nate
    Nov 12, 2012 @ 22:25:00

    “I was in love with your mystery/Now I just take what I can get from you” Till Dawn (Here Comes The Sun)

  24. Dandamaaan
    Nov 12, 2012 @ 21:06:00

    He made three Classic Mixtapes and now it’s one Classic album…

    I’m not tired of it yet…

  25. Q
    Nov 12, 2012 @ 20:42:00

    I feel everyone thats going to check out the weeknd has heard these songs especially after the Drake cosign on take care but its almost the similar situation that happy with Drake and So Far Gone project.But Drake was still released new songs and feature verses during that time When it got released as an Album. I do feel the Weeknd should have new material out because he has not generated a radio single with his old material as much hype as it has gotten in the past 2 years. As for his buzz he was in Houston a couple weeks ago sold out show.

  26. MiesVanDerRob
    Nov 12, 2012 @ 20:07:00

    How the fuck do you complain about something that is FREE??? @andrewmartin Three FREE cohesive ablums/mixtapes what ever you want to call it. Dude is a great artist and gives an excellent show none the less, appreciate this shit and move on. I hate condescending pricks like you, writing bullshit articles like this one just to pass the time. I’m not even speaking as a fan but who has better rnb right now? Frank TheWeeknd and Miguel very short list. Lets be thankful for receiving FREE artwork guys……

  27. MadLark
    Nov 12, 2012 @ 19:36:00

    When all of your music sounds like 1 long song there isn’t much to else to do.

  28. terriblyyouniq
    Nov 12, 2012 @ 19:07:00

    I wonder where Abel’s actual style came from. Because his stuff before House of Balloons is pretty weak. And then after reading that Jeremy Rose piece, it kind of questions how much of the project was Abel and how much was everyone else. He may have even wrote himself in a corner so to speak by basing most of his attraction to the mystery and the subject matter

  29. Andrew Martin
    Nov 12, 2012 @ 16:15:00

    Well I’m not comparing Frank and Abel directly. They have both had crazy success in various ways, which I presented in this piece. Where they differ is in one’s decision to not recycle material. And c’mon, no one knew who Frank was when Nostalgia, Ultra dropped.

    But still, completely different artists. And I think Abel has it in him to do better. He’s young (like 22, I think) and put out some GREAT and some boring material.

  30. WiredRacing
    Nov 12, 2012 @ 16:09:00

    No two snowflakes are exactly the same. From what I can tell Ocean’s been around a bit longer and coming out of LA is much more convenient than coming out of Toronto. I’m sure there’s no good reason why after House of Balloons or even Thursday he and his new (not XO) label could have sold the 2nd or 3rd. But it was always announced/planned as a trilogy. I dunno where his new label fit into the picture at the time. Anyhow this is more like what Death Grips did and now they’re out there touring hard on the strength of those 3 (mostly) free albums which apparently is where all the money is anyhow. Who knows, maybe there was a sampling clearance issue or cost that made it prohibitive? Perhaps you’re right it was too much emphasis on the whole “mystery” idea. But I think it’s pretty clear he was basically an unknown when he put out the first one meanwhile Frank Ocean would have been known via Oddfuture and his writing and guest spots. If Abel and some of his friends make up XO… it’s easy not to have the best advice so early on when you start to break through. As an entrepreneur it would be difficult to convince me of something about my own work if I had a plan for it already. I dunno how his shows have been doing elsewhere, but he sold out 4 straight days here last week! I guess we’ll see how the “Trilogy” album sales do. But I’m guessing he’ll be able to sit pretty on a fat stack of cash and take his time with a proper follow-up.

  31. Andrew Martin
    Nov 12, 2012 @ 14:44:00

    Yeah, well, fuck that template. Frank Ocean didn’t do it, why did Abel?

  32. WiredRacing
    Nov 12, 2012 @ 14:37:00

    I find the article thick with irony. That the sheer amount of work that is poured into the tubes on any given day is oppressive yet here is a complaint about where his new work is… What would you have had him do? Release those three albums over a longer period of time? It wouldn’t work, the sound would have been copied and 1 year after another his material would become dated and not spread like the wildfire that it did. One has to realize there are .. say… 4 types of music listeners. There’s the obsessive reviewers and music nerds who do nothing all day but listen to music, then there’s the internet crowd (hipsters?), then there’s the mainstream music “lovers” and the casual listener (who wouldn’t have a clue who Oddfuture are). The first two groups already know of The Weeknd, the other two, not so much. Trilogy is meant for those later groups where the sound will endure for much longer than the far more dynamic internet. I suspect we’ll see this template more and more in the new age of music distribution and promotion.

  33. Andrew Martin
    Nov 12, 2012 @ 14:08:00

    That was exactly my point though. And my frustration with a lack of new music has to do with the fact that only three songs on Trilogy are new.

  34. Victor
    Nov 12, 2012 @ 13:57:00

    Surely the fact that you are irritated in his lack of output this past year (in the stead of making some bucks off of three albums he dropped last year) is contradictory? It’s a good thing if he even takes another year to drop some new shit just so he does some different shit. I think he knows this and it’s why he’s playing possum.

    I would even like for some artists to maybe, you know, leave a couple years between projects. That would be nice.

  35. Andrew Martin
    Nov 12, 2012 @ 13:51:00

    I can agree to an extent, but I think the bigger flaw is his songwriting…which I didn’t get into because we’re reviewing ‘Trilogy’ and I didn’t want to just do that here.

  36. Andrew Martin
    Nov 12, 2012 @ 13:50:00

    Totally agree.

  37. BlackBoxDisco
    Nov 12, 2012 @ 13:28:00

    “It’s possible that Abel Tesfaye and his producers are … stuck. Stuck in a sound, style, and approach to writing that will no doubt excite all the teenagers out there looking for slightly rebellious, drugged-out, and sexed-up R&B that’s different from, say, Trey fucking Songz.”

    By the release of Echoes of Silence it was clear to those not swept up in fanboy/girl-ism that dude’s sound was VERY specific, such that you had to be in an equally specific frame of mind to even listen to one mixtape all the way through. FO, by comparison, has a broader emotional, lyrical, and musical reach that ultimately argues in his favor as the stronger artist. “Stronger” in this case meaning more exciting and mature. Ocean has a long career a head of him as a solo performer–Abel, I’m not so sure about.

  38. HNH
    Nov 12, 2012 @ 12:17:00

    It’s hard to be critical of The Weeknd for losing his luster and not being mysterious anymore when that subject was what the entire song “Rolling Stone” was about. He knew this would happen and tried to prolong this process from happening. Only so much you can do.

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