It will forever be the curse of an artist for their past and present selves to be compared, scrutinized and criticized – have they sold out? Have they gotten better? Have they gotten worse? Will they ever make an album like their One Classic?
The Weeknd has been subject to these appraisals for years now. The trilogy of mixtapes that introduced him to the world is widely considered essential R&B, a unique voice that no one has since matched – not even Abel himself. The hazy darkness that was his own in those early days was dispersed by pop glimmer, and on last listen (looking at you, Starboy) seemed to have completely been undercut by his grandiose ambitions. The somber tones came off more as a prop than the heart of the music.
When the rumours of new Weeknd music surfaced, that apparently sounded like the old him, the tremulous excitement set in. This could just be a marketing ploy – the new Weeknd was here to stay, right? The old Weeknd was gone.