The one thing you should see this week: an underground R&B crooner on the brink of superstardom
This week’s pick: The Weeknd at the Mod Club
Every year, it seems an enigmatic Toronto-based singer drops a free mixtape on his website and sets the Internet ablaze. In 2009, it was Drake; in 2010, Diamond Rings. This year, the Twitter-Tumblr-Soundcloud matrix that shot these local boys to stardom is working its magic for Abel Tesfaye, a.k.a. The Weeknd, who in March released his debut House of Balloons, an assortment of confident, lusty R&B tracks that was recently shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize. He’s already garnered glowing write-ups on Pitchfork and in Rolling Stone and is as prolific as he is buzzy: HoB is the first album in a trilogy, with the second (Thursday) scheduled to be released later this summer and the third (Echoes of Silence) slated for the fall.
The Weeknd is first and foremost an R&B outfit, but Tesfaye’s satiny, melismatic voice and hook-laden melodies are just a part of the package. The mixtape veers far away from most mainstream R&B productions—Tesfaye’s voice often sounds far away, buffeted by scratches, echoes, percussion and, of course, Auto-Tune. Still, the recording is terrifically restrained, relying largely on Tesfaye’s voice as an anchor over beats that sample everyone from Siouxsie and the Banshees to Beach House. Following Drake’s lead, The Weeknd’s subject matter matches the hazy production, depicting a bleak world of drugs, sex and anomie—“Trust me, girl, you wanna be high for this,” Tesfaye purrs. (The nebulous world of The Weeknd is illustrated by the stark black and white cover art depicting a naked woman passed out in a bathtub and showered with balloons.)
We don’t know what to expect from The Weeknd’s live show—this Sunday marks his first-ever performance in front of a crowd, leading up to his much-anticipated set as part of Drake’s OVO Festival at the end of the month. But don’t let that stop you. This may be your first and last opportunity to see the it boy in an intimate space before he blows up big time.
The details: July 24. 8 p.m. $20–$25. Mod Club Theatre, 722 College St., 416-588-4663, themodclub.com.