The John Carpenter of R&B, Abel Tesfaye is back with his first proper single after his 2013 album Kiss Land. Since the release of that album, Tesfaye’s Weeknd project has been inescapable on the radio, thanks to his jazzy, adult-contemporary smash single for Fifty Shades of Grey, “Earned It” and an ace guest-spot on Ariana Grande’s “Love Me Harder”. But “Earned It” and “Love Me Harder” hardly felt like Weeknd songs. This new single, called “The Hills”, really does.
Horror cinema’s influence on the Weeknd’s music has been made explicit before—Psycho-style screams were common affectations on Kiss Land, after all—but Tesfaye’s really letting us feel the Carpenter and the Cronenberg and the Lynch influence on the video for “The Hills”. It’s a smart and potentially interesting move on Tesfaye’s part. The Weeknd’s postmodern, nihilistic persona felt played out soon after his menacing, 160-minute Trilogy epic. The Party as a metaphor for the West’s moral decline hit saturation point circa 2012, and so far Tesfaye has been unwilling to drop the subject. Instead, in a classic pop star move, he’s repackaging the product. He’s delving even deeper into the Weeknd persona and shining a light on the absurd and grotesque. I’m intrigued. I hope he pulls it off whenever his next album hits.
Watch “The Hills” below—