Like any other high school student, I am a big fan of the weekend. After five days of tedious juggling of studying for that last minute chemistry test, rushing to the after school debate club meeting and then going home to see that your dog has completed destroyed your new Converse, the weekend is almost two days of heaven. However, I am an even bigger fan of The Weeknd. I'm sure you have all heard of this new "started from the bottom now we're here" R&B Starboy born and raise from my hometown of Toronto, Canada. There is yet to be a person who hasn't heard of "The Hills", "Starboy", "Party Monster" and my personal favorite track of his, 'Reminder". There has been many Canadian pop music icons that you know too well. I think that we're all too tired of seeing Justin Bieber drag racing in Miami and then purposefully leaking sexually provocative material on social media. And to be completely honest, Alessia Cara's mainstream cliche theme of accepting yourself and embracing imperfections is almost too unoriginal. The Weeknd, however, combines a refreshing mix of the typical sex and drugs in the hip hop/R&B genre with stellar vocals and an almost too memorable haircut. I stumbled upon his single, Reminder while mindlessly browsing through Spotify on a weekend a while ago. Besides the (always) catchy beat and his smooth-as-Lindt chocolate voice, a couple of his lyrics caught me by surprise.
"I just won a new award for a kid's show, talking about a face numbing off a bag of blow...goddamn I am not a teen choice." This is a direct response to this award in 2016 from the Teen's Choice Awards for the song, I Can't Feel My Face. Shots fired. Not often do we see a mainstream artist diss a major awards like that. It may seem arrogant that he doesn't care for an award like the Teen's Choice. However, I believe he is discuss something else completely different. "I Can't Feel My Face" topped the top hits chart week after week, so much that I immediately switched radio stations whenever it came on this summer during a road trip. To be honest, the sheltered secondary school student that I am, I thought the song describe much more romantic endeavors of becoming numb of desire and not of cocaine. When someone like me falls for his deception of the smooth vocals and often dream-like music videos, he has nearly the entirely world fooled too. We see the topic of drugs and sex included in the rap genre often but not often with discussion such as in "Reminder". Abel, the Starboy behind The Weeknd, not only reminds us of his genuine themes, but also our negligence towards the true ethics of mainstream culture. If some appealing music and dazzling vocals can fool millions of teens to choose their favorite song as one of elicit drug use, we will almost always fail to see what hides in plain sight. We teach young girls about values of body image and self-appreciation but continue to objectify women in movies, music videos and on social media. We learn in history class about Hitler's Third Reich and the horrors of the Holocaust but fail to act against Donald Trump's extreme Islamophobia and racial marginalization. We continue to tell ourselves that "the world is becoming better, our lives are becoming safer, and races are now equal". In reality, radical discrimination and hate remain highly prevalent and perhaps even more severe.
In the end, there is hope.
Perhaps something that The Weeknd tells us in the harmless "Reminder" is to question the norm and evaluate what is popular and what is ethical. His music has always and I believe always will be marked by absorbing beats and hypnotic bars, but also greater messages beneath the surface. It is a valid argument that music can still be enjoyed without true consideration for the meaning of the lyrics. However, it is too often we are prone to the bandwagon and mindless follow trends to lead ourselves into behavior that may not always be just. The Weeknd brings music that may sound like some tracks we have heard before, but there is definitely more under his skin of lyrics.
For a Toronto raised boy who left home one weekend and never came back, I guess The Weeknd can give us a "Reminder" a thing or two. I will definitely be streaming his music this weekend.
Besides, Drake was featured in his music video for "Reminder". He has the worth to tell his fans: "if it ain't XO, then it gotta go."