‘Echoes of Silence’ has done for The Weeknd’s 2011 mixtape trilogy what any good series finale should do: presented with the impression of a developed, matured character on ‘House Of Ballons’, we’ve been shocked with new material on ‘Thursday’, though we reminisced and pined for the old. Yet most importantly, we’ve still been left wanting more. Punctuated with some observant commentary on The Weeknd’s reputation , ‘Echoes Of Silence’, the final mixtape released over the holiday period, is not only informed by, but is entirely built on the incredibly popular caricature that 21-year-old singer Abel Tesfaye has created for himself this past year, and looks into the future with both wide-eyed hope and the bitter edge of lessons learned.
Echoes of Silence is totally, undeniably anchored in its two predecessors, as Tesfaye lifts hooks and references from one mixtape to another at every opportunity. With pleads such as “I’ve been good since Thursday” and “you could have been that Lonely Star”, the singer rewards persistence and dedication in his fans. Elsewhere, he borrows motifs like dropping his age (“girl I might be 21…”) and copies whole lines from one song to another, as in “same clothes, you ain’t ready for your day shift” which leaps from ‘House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls’ straight into ‘XO/The Host’. This recycling of single moments roots the music in a chronology, a passing moment, emphasising the cycle of anticipation and reward that has defined 2011 for Tesfaye.
All of the sinister, misogynist tension of the troubled kid from the previous mixtapes – the guy who only sleeps girls with “twenty different pills in ‘em” and wants to get them “dancing with the devil” – has culminated here in the cartoon villain voice of ‘Initiation’, in which technical distortion meets the amped-up sneers and snarls of Tesfaye’s voice to create the stuff of nightmares. With a faux-sympathetic hook that coaxes his lady to “ride it out”, The Weeknd is at his most coercive, his most crushing, and his most bleak in this track about domination, persuasion and taking advantage. With most of the female population of Echoes of Silence trying to use the star for his status, it seems that the only way he can derive enjoyment from women these days is if they’re degraded to their most passive, most objectified state.
This theme is explored more emotionally in ‘Same Old Song’, which spins a bleak love song out of the pain of being used for your fame and the loneliness of being at the top. This continues what seems to be an overriding theme in the tape – unlike ‘Thursday’, in which some true feelings of reverence for the opposite sex were still clung to, here lovers just want the wrong things from one another, and love itself is lost in the equation. This idea rings soberly through the obsessively perfect ‘D.D.’, a cover of Michael Jackson’s ‘Dirty Diana’. Elsewhere ‘The Fall’, which burns brightly for its production, is a shimmering, seductive track masterminded by Clams Casino, another mixtape star of the past year.
Like echoes of silence, on ‘Echoes Of Silence’, Abel Tesfaye has created something out of nothing. Where there was no buzz – for a while, the world didn’t even know his name – he built a cacophony of hype with House of Balloons. He lingered over this moment, savouring the freedom it gave him and taking his first tentative steps into fame with Thursday, and now blazes his way through the music scene with an assured guest spot in Drake’s Take Care and a confident final instalment. 2011 seems to have ended in exactly the way the Canadian star had hoped; 2012 is his for the taking.