Audio Mixer: Carlo "Illangelo" Montagnese.
Photographer: Lamar Taylor.
Abel Tesfaye, aka the Weeknd, released three free mixtapes, aka albums, in 2011. Trilogy compiles them with remastered sound and adds three new songs. Supported by fellow Toronto native Drake, Tesfaye surfaced that March with House of Balloons, an impressive debut that merged his paradoxical approach -- sweet voice, poisonous words -- with gloomy but entrancing productions, most of which were provided by Illangelo and Doc McKinney. The duo produced the entirety of Thursday, released that August. It offered minor variations on the debut's themes of getting laid and high through scenes of bleak malevolence. Anyone not magnetized to extended periods of intense wallowing and/or chemically-induced lethargy -- or the idea of experiencing either one of the two states -- could discern that Tesfaye could have used an editor. And then, in December, just after Drake released Take Care, an album featuring a handful of Tesfaye collaborations, Echoes of Silence completed the Weeknd trilogy in an equally excessive fashion. Emboldened by critical acclaim and an enthusiastic fan base, Tesfaye continued to find slightly different, occasionally peculiar ways of expressing unapologetically sordid feelings about drugs, partying, drugs, bad girls, drugs, strippers, drugs, good girls gone bad, and drugs -- all of which serve an identical purpose and get the same level of consideration. There are points throughout these works where Tesfaye is distinctively gripping, supplying deadly hooks and somehow singing for his life despite the cold blood flowing through his veins. When this package was released, he was gaining mainstream momentum with appearances on Drake's "Crew Love" and Wiz Khalifa's "Remember You." His potential is as obvious as his lyrics are toxic. ~ Andy Kellman