If a member of generation x out of touch with current music took a look at the iTunes Top 10 right now, he might get excited declaring that there is a brand new song by The Cure called “Lady Gaga”. The big news last week was the battle of Britain in which Harry Styles’ “Sign of the Times” attempted to unseat fellow Englishman Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You”. Now we have fellow Canucks placing new songs in the elite deck. Shawn Mendes has released a deluxe version of his 2016 album Illuminate. New track “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back” is selling like hotcakes. Justin Bieber is still hot since album Purpose and his collaborations with the crafters of EDM. His latest venture is as a featured vocalist in “Despacito”. It is a remix of a song from Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee. And, no Despacito was not recorded in Canada’s other official language. It’s a Spanish language song. Fonsi and Yankee are from Puerto Rico. So, how are the new tracks doing? Well Shawn Mendes is as of this writing at #8 and the Biebs is #1. But if your eyes don’t deceive you, there’s something else going on around here. The Weeknd? Yes. He is featured in a brand new song by Lana Del Rey called “Lust For Life” and it’s at #6. “Stay” by Alessia Cara and Zedd is holding at #10.
In the UK, they say “at the weekend” which does make sense as in “at the end of the week”. In Canada, we say “on the weekend” which also makes sense as in “on Saturday and Sunday”. But when it comes to Beauty Behind the Madness, we are WITH The Weeknd (minus the third ‘e’ of course). While JB has topped iTunes singles with “What Do You Mean”, Toronto’s Abel Tesfaye is king of iTunes albums with his new LP. Both Justin Bieber and The Weekend will be representing Canada at this year’s MTV Video awards on Sunday.
The Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye’s stage name) was an unlikely candidate for superstardom. R&B had not been Canada’s specialty and was not nearly as popular in the dominion as in the republic. Furthermore, the reclusive figure decided not to make mainstream R&B, venturing over to the hazy darkness of its alternative side. With little hope of ever becoming a household name, Abel released three experimental albums for free online. Word of mouth spread through the underground, and The Weeknd gradually became somewhat of a cult figure. He even had the requisite mad hairdo. Eventually, he was discovered by Drake who featured him on his album Take Care. The Republic Records A&R department from the States sent one or their agents on a mission to track him down in Toronto and convince him to sign up. Abel was not interested. With further sweet talking, a deal was agreed upon, and the three demo albums were released together as Trilogy, a package that, with the push of the press, hit double platinum sales.
There was much anticipation for The Weeknd’s first formal album, Kiss Land, but it saw less success. Its only charting single “Wanderlust” peaked at #45. This prompted reassessment. With no Top 40 hit he could call his own, the strategy was to hook him up with a hot A-lister and feature a second song in a blockbuster Hollywood feature film. Hitmaker Max Martin was brought in. Abel teamed up with Italian American singer Ariana Grande in “Love Me Harder” which became his first big hit, scaling up to #10 on the charts in early December 2014. Fifty Shades of Grey was to be the motion picture to launch The Weeknd’s own smash hit; “Earned It” made it to #8 in March 2015 and struck double platinum.
Beauty Behind the Madness was heralded primarily with single “Can’t Feel My Face”, to date the biggest Canadian hit of 2015. The song sits at #2 at home, topping the U.S. charts, and reaching #3 In the UK. The track along with “In the Night” from the new album were produced by Martin. Guests include Labrinth, Lana Del Rey, and Ed Sheeran. The mishmash of R&B, characterized mostly by its quirky vocal warbling style, pop, and alternative is an honest presentation of The Weeknd’s persona. While he admires American pop giants of African descent like Prince and Michael Jackson (The Weeknd’s maternal roots lie in Ethiopia), he is also a fan of creepy, psychotic cinema like the films of David Lynch. Beauty Behind the Madness has debuted at #1 on iTunes. It is available in both explicit and clean versions. iTunes