After years of sub-standard artists force-fed to us by labels thinking all it took was a quick dance routine and a pretty face (aka the Rhythm and Bullshit era), finally real R&B is back. The likes of Frank Ocean, Elle Varner, James Fauntleroy and Jhene Aiko have brought back the original essence to the genre. Of the new kids on the block, few match up as interestingly as US star, Miguel and Toronto’s own Abel Tesfaye, popularly known as The Weeknd.
After years ghost-writing and waiting in the wings, Miguel burst onto the scene in 2010 and has since then undertaken something of an image revamp, improving his overall output at the same time. The Weeknd swept to prominence in early 2011 on a hipster horse-powered frenzy of hype mostly down to the brilliant House of Balloons mixtape and a little bit of promo from fellow Canadian buddy Drake. Undoubtedly both great artists in their own right but make no mistake; one is clearly better than the other and will go further for the genre and culture. Let me explain how and why…
The Weeknd has released three mixtapes and an album (a repackaged collection of the mixtapes) all to widespread critical acclaim but in all honesty, they all sound alike and circle near enough the same subject matter. “Been there done that” has been the most common criticism of recent single “Kiss Land”, and Tesfaye will undoubtedly face this constantly over the coming years. The same can’t be said for Miguel; having toed the contemporary R&B line for a year as he broke out, he become more experimental with the Art Dealer Chic EP series and then dropped the excellent Kaleidoscope Dream marking his clear growth and gradual improvement.
Miguel has hit his stride of late, throwing assists to Wale, Mariah Carey and J.Cole the past six months coming in at 1st, 4th and 5th on the US R&B Charts. The Weeknd in comparison has mysteriously severed ties with Drake and has failed to replicate that kind of chemistry with any other artist. Recent link ups with French Montana, 2 Chainz and Juicy J have all hit pretty wide of the mark.
The Weeknds style is comparable to the kid in school with the cool vintage leather jacket, problem is he wore it every day for two years straight til there was nothing really ‘cool’ about it at all. In fact it probably never was vintage, just worn out, maybe it was a hand down, and maybe he stole it, from a tramp. You see, all these doubts could have been averted if he switched it up once in a while, uniform dress code is for cartoon character’s and not the King of R&B; Michael Jackson is spinning in his grave at the thought of The Weeknds closet filled with only denim and camo.
I’ve experienced the live show of both acts and again there’s really no comparison is there? One stands dead centre stage under a spotlight and the other works the whole stage and interacts with the audience (We’ll expand on that later).
Both have those annoying screamy type fans in abundance but The Weeknd has a ridiculously high calibre of pretenders. You know the types to put XO at the end of their Twitter name and tweet crap like “Cocaine for breakfast” when they’d probably faint if they saw a pile of the stuff. Back to when I witnessed The Weeknd live in London, no one told me it was compulsory for all fans to attempt to sing along word for word, to every song. Here was me expecting to listen to a show, not take part in awkward crowded karaoke in the Electric Ballroom. They’re an easily impressed bunch as well; I still remember a group of girls raving about how aggressively he grabbed the mic off the stand and that being the highlight of their night. Seriously.
Don’t even pretend to understand any of The Weeknd’s videos, just don’t. They’re not clever or deep; they’re an over elaborate and pretentious mess. If you haven’t already, don’t waste your time with the video for “The Knowing”, that’s eight minutes of your life you’ll never spend more wastefully. Half of the time those corny, ‘unofficial’ fan-made videos seem to make more sense thematically and stylistically, which kinda says all you need to know.
Don’t think I won’t embarrass all my children and their children at the annual family BBQ of 2052 grooving to “Adorn”, Best R&B Song Grammy winning “Adorn” by the way. Adding more weight to its legend, recent studies (don’t ask me for the source, just trust me) revealed the release of “Adorn” to be the number one cause of the great baby boom of mid to late 2012. Seems legit.
Ok now I’m just being petty, I can admit that - but for a singer with the subject matter of The Weeknd combined with his rapid rise to fame you wouldn’t think it’d be long til gossip blogs were awash with rumours of his seedy sexual dealings. What have we got? Nothing. Miguel on the other hand is in a relationship with the lovely Nazanin Mandi. Go on, Google her and thank me later.
Leg drop ability
This could have gone under the performance section but in all honesty it needed to be appreciated on its own. Pretty much the most important category here, this debate really ended last month on May 19th. There is at this point, no artist in the world that can at say they’ve performed a flawless running stage dive-leg drop on an unsuspecting member of the public. The victim claims she might now be suffering from some sort of delayed brain trauma (surprise, surprise) but besides the big cheque Miguel will need to make the pain ‘go away’, he received the highest of praise from the leg drop originator Hulk Hogan himself. Miguelamania, in the words of the Hulkster is here to stay. Don’t say I didn’t earn you.
Face it, Miguel is the evolutionary Marvin Gaye and is sharpening all areas of his craft with all signs point to him progressively getting better. The Weeknd might have peaked a long time ago and could very well be that guy we say in a few years, remember when everybody loved ‘so and so’ “Wow what the hell were we all thinking!”