‘The Hills’ by The Weeknd
From the album Beauty Behind the Madness (2015)
How neat that, right in the middle of my mini-series about Canadian music, two very important figures in the Canadian hip hop/R&B scene release new albums. The Weeknd and k-os released their latest work within a week of each other and it is very much a case of the old guard showing that they have still got it (k-os) and a new breed of superstar carving out his own niche in the scene and scoring a UK number 1 album in the process (The Weeknd).
‘The Hills’ explores, for want of a better phrase, a fuck buddy relationship between the protagonist and a woman, in which she is treated in an off-hand manner, ‘I only call you when it’s half past five/The only time that I’ll be by your side’, whilst trying to hide the relationship from her friends and boyfriend (‘you said keep our business on the low-low’). Hardeep Phull, writing for the New York Post at the time of the song’s release, noted that people turned on to The Weeknd by his track for the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack (‘Earned It’) would be quite taken aback by ‘The Hills’ and its sinister overtones, standing in stark contrast to ‘Earned It’s pop sensibilities. From the very outset of ‘The Hills’ it is obvious that ‘Earned It’ was a temporary departure; from the opening synth stabs that give way to the swirling rhythm of the verse and the interlude towards the end of the song that evokes Wes Craven’s (RIP) seminal horror film, The Hills Have Eyes.
There are many critics of the so-called PBR&B movement that The Weeknd has been pigeonholed into, but I personally am a very big fan of the guy and have been since his mixtapes of 2011. Beauty Behind the Madness is just another step by Abel Tesfaye towards worldwide acclaim. The thing that makes this pretty hard to take for me is that we share the exact same birthday.