Most musicians stop the ride before it’s over.
They take us on a tour of fame and fantasy, climaxing at a predictable peak. Not The Weeknd. He takes you all the way up, but doesn’t let you out of your seat until you’ve also felt the comedown.
Don’t get me wrong, The Weeknd indulges in the same superficial fun we’ve come to expect – and enjoy – from pop music. But he also exposes its emptiness, and his own. Which makes the experience kinda’ deep (or me kinda’ shallow). He’s mastered the art of making us feel invincible and ashamed on the same track.
First, you’re seduced by incredible beats and innovative instrumentals. Then, you sing along as he flaunts a ruthless approach to fame. And just when you think the show’s over, he pulls the curtain back, showing us the twisted reality behind fame’s glittery cliches: Cocaine confidence followed by excruciating insecurity. Playing females for fools, then falling in love with one who’s playing you. Arrogance that seamlessly devolves into vulnerability – I’m killin’ yall / I’m dying inside.
We hear ourselves in his hypocrisy, which creates a pang of compassion. It’s not easy to feel sorry for a superstar. But we do–feel his pain. Because he’s captures a paradox inside us all.
He invites us to party on his yacht, then sets it on fire and makes us watch as he drowns heartbreak and addiction. He seems to be saying, If you’re gonna’ laugh with me, you’re gonna’ cry with me too. If he stopped the song while he was still afloat, it wouldn’t be real. Because we don’t all know what it’s like to party on a yacht, but we all know what it’s like to feel like we’re drowning.
Anyone can get you high, but only an artist can make you enjoy the comedown.