Sexy, filthy, and down right offensive. Abel Tesfaye’s latest track is brilliant for all the wrong reasons.
When it comes to singing about sex, no one does it quite like The Weeknd. The Toronto-based R&B singer brings a lot to the table, musically. A unique voice and a dark, unfettered sound that transcends the majority of modern R&B. In expressing his sexuality, his music often sways between the limits of social-acceptance: The thin line that divides sexy to offensive, and even misogynistic. In his new single, ‘Often’, The Weeknd pushes the limits further than he has dared to before.
“Baby I can make that pussy rain, often” is the beckoning call of the song. Coercive, dark, and deeply problematic, the troubled vocals of Abel Tesfaye soften the sharp blow of the songs lyrics, in an almost absurd contrast. The dicey, cutting and almost nonchalant lyrics breathe heavily down your neck, whilst the vocals personify a paradox of confidence, yet guilt. The backdrop melody dimly captures the disorientating, gritty nature of the music. Truly, The Weeknd is all about sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll. Lyrically, then, The Weeknd portrays a version of the modern male as a predatory and sexually dominating being, whilst underlining the modern female as and the passive vessel for male pleasure, in an all too ludicrous and vivid interpretation of contemporary ‘cock-rock’.
With all this in mind, The Weeknd’s voice still envelops a sense of romance, albeit in a skewed way. The line “but I see your eyes, you wanna go again, girl I’ll go again” tethers together the innocence and guilt that the track projects in parallel with its problematic themes of sexual domination and promiscuity. A trip-pop track, feathered over by a slow jam R&B rhythm that hazes the peripheries of the listener, the develops a sour, near to hallucinogenic effect. The bass carries the song, and the off-beat deep-tom percussion jabs at the nerves, and shakes up the harmonic edge to the song.
Subtly, the deep throb that the track deliciously compliments the vocals. With such a raw theme, the disparities continue with how separately each component of the song stands from each other. The music is compressed, intimidating and slow-burning, whilst the vocals are gentle, sexy and inviting. Here, the temptation is matched with a warning, and Abel Tesfaye’s creation is finished. As previous Weeknd songs, such as ‘Kiss Land’ and ‘Adaptation’, tell us, Tesfaye’s admiration for women is mainly focuses on their flesh, rather than their more abstract, intimate features.
A slimy, monstrous track in many ways, ‘Often’ barks out two unfoundedly reductive representations of men and women as two completely separate, conflicting components of sexuality. However, The Weeknd maintains the seductive and desirable core that his tracks always seem to have. Problematic, yet musically brilliant. The controversy conjured up by ‘Often’ it’s unique selling point in a market ripe with taboo material, and The Weeknd’s sex-on-drugs feel is no anomaly. As a binding force between genders, The Weeknd’s music and soulful vocals conjoin the ideas of sexual freedom, and overlook the more questionable thumbnails of the song.
In a twist of sexual politics, the latest product from the deliciously sordid The Weeknd is a masterclass in seduction. As a poetical tyrant of sexual aggression, mellowed out by it’s low-thumping tune, The Weeknd has turned what should have been a filthy mess into an epic story of conflicting emotions, and tangled expression.