The Road to Hell is paved with The Weeknd and… Jim Carrey (?!)
One of the nice things, early in this part of life still called the Pandemic, was when Abel Tesfaye and Jim Carrey not only announced a friendship, but an actual neighborhood.
Whether this means that Canadians in exile in the United States have an unconscious tendency to clump together in a kind of cultural-elite ghetto remains to be seen.
The almost sixty-year-old comedian has in any case had a defining role in the life of the much younger musician. A young Abel Tesfaye’s fascination with the rubber face Carrey was reportedly what made him seek the limelight himself.
A spotlight that shines so brightly that his fourth album, “After hours”, tops the Norwegian album sales list for 2021. Not bad for an album that was released in the world on March 20, 2020.
On The Weeknd’s Fifth, neighbor Jim Carrey is present as the radio host for it all. In what seems to be a concept album about standing in a kind of car queue in the tunnel before purgatory.
Well, in such a perspective, the album should at least be a painful experience. It is also for those who think this eighties program for The Weeknd has now gone a little too far.
Of course not.
Instead of making the compilation album “See Purgatory Bright”, Daniel Lopatin, better known as the electronics experimentalist Oneohtrix Point Never (up from two producer contributions last to thirteen here) has guided Tesfaye to a darker but also more beautiful eighties.
The warp artist goes smart and hard by pitching the recognizable bright vocals down towards the bass region. INnot unlike Agnes Obel’s «Familiar». Through the album, he draws the greatest pop expert of our time far away from the comfort zone, without it feeling taken for granted. Suddenly, Tesfaye feels innovative and almost dangerous again.
The familiar has also been made more interesting. Last year’s single “Take My Breath” has become an almost six minute long electro-pop epic, a maxi single where Max Martin and his disciples provide synth and tune all the breathing space needed.
Tesfaye is not a contemporary observer a la Roger Waters «Radio KAOS» (1987). The lyrics are still moderately hedonistic. Here, Quincy Jones (yes, herself) gets an interlude that partly takes the whole from the personal to something more universal.
A stretch of weaker single moments a little over midway weighs on the whole. A stretch that ends in “Less than Zero”, the closest thing to this concept is something that can now approach the popularity of the blue lights in “Blinding Lights”
By the way: Either something as old-fashioned as an old-fashioned filter has been used on the cover, or Abel Tesfaye (31) finally appears as a time traveler.
Both are really just as scary.