Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Review: The Weeknd's "Often" Video Subverts the Party Lifestyle

 by Fadzai Nova

The Weeknd recently unveiled a new video for his recently released song 'Often', which is the second new track of the year from his new album King Of The Fall. In the video, The Weeknd, whose real name is Abel Tesfaye, sings sullenly in a hotel room as models wearing lingerie appear in and out of the frame in seamless continuity. If you are familiar with The Weeknd’s music, you are aware that this particular kind of melancholic video has become his norm. Tesfaye keeps to standard music industry themes of late nights, sex and drugs, but what makes him different from other artists is how he delivers his content.

The Weeknd creates worlds with his music that romanticise a rock and roll city lifestyle. His subject matter is an interpretation of how a person can feel as if they own the night, consuming shots one after another, taking recreational substances and feeling the freedom of not thinking. Fast forward a few hours and that feeling of power quickly fades into a symphonic headache, a confrontation with reality and vulnerability as inhibitions return to a sober mind. The Weeknd illustrates that although he lives this lifestyle, he does not necessarily enjoy it, as the morning will always expose who he really is.

Rebellion is often praised in pop culture as it is a challenge and deviation from the norm; long hair, bad clothing, tattoos and piercings generate a sense of free will for an individual, and while a lifestyle filled with sex, drugs and alcohol is envied by some, The Weekend maintains a gloomy attitude throughout his music which gives the impression that he is using this lifestyle as a form of escape from deeper issues rather than the pure enjoyment of it. His untamed hair and melancholic nature can be likened to a seemingly depressed Johnny Deep during the period he was dating model Kate Moss, where these themes were evidently linked to addiction.

Tesfaye predominantly associates his visual content (videos and photographs) with Caucasian women who live the wild model lifestyle embodied in pop culture by the likes of Kate Moss; they are usually depicted in different stages of undress, having sex, attending parties, taking drugs and drinking to perpetuate the idea of a city life filled with rebellion and debauchery. Although his subject matter is not new, he illustrates it from a thought-provoking perspective, where content is open to interpretation. In addition his music sounds distinctly different from that of his peers. His unique approach, seeming indifferent to an emotional connection with the subject matter of his songs, creates an enigmatic presence for the singer which allows the listener to disassociate the musician from the music.

The Weeknd’s stimulates emotion through his music, which has become rare. His smooth voice and aloofness represent an authentic austerity which is refreshing in an ostentatious industry where catchy beats, flashing gold chains and flaunting wealth are the norm.