Sophia Elias
August 28, 2015 11:48 am

In just five years, Abel Tesfaye (AKA The Weeknd) has made the transition from being a faceless underground artist to a chart topping pop star. The 25 year old started putting out dark, trip-hop mixtapes in 2010, repeatedly dipping in and out of Internet obscurity. Now, you can’t turn on the radio without hearing “I Can’t Feel My Face,” “The Hills,” “Often,” “Earned It,” or his duet with Ariana Grande, “Love Me Harder.”

Don’t let his climb to mainstream status fool you, though. Abel has managed to dress his latest album in the dark and sultry fits we first encountered five years ago. His latest album is also now available for your listening pleasure. It’s called Beauty Behind the Madness, and we are all about it.

“Alternative R&B is in my soul. It’s not going anywhere,” he told Time. “When I put out songs from House of Balloons in 2010 people said I made R&B cool again…That’s what I want to do with Beauty Behind The Madness. I want to make pop cool again, and the only way I can do that is by being ambitious and grand.”

Critics and customers agree: The Weeknd is changing pop — not just in his meteoric rise to the mainstream — but in his unique approach to pop music. HipHopDX described him as “reaching out and grabbing every pop sound that’s been successful in the past half-century of mainstream pop, rolling it tightly in a blunt and setting them ablaze with Abel Tesfaye’s sonorous vocals, this release gets much higher than most anything else released in 2015.” Complex noted his same “lecherous lyrics” that built his cult following, but this time around, “the beats are larger, more capacious, and more lush.”

With features from megastars like Lana Del Rey and Ed Sheeran, Beauty Behind the Madness marks The Weeknd’s departure from the underground to bona fide pop stardom. Even still, songs like “The Hills,” “Acquainted,” and “Prisoner” featuring Lana Del Rey (which, by the way, is an absolute must-listen), maintains the brooding goodness of his early mixtapes.

“[He] wanted to figure out a way to be in both worlds, which he’s very successfully done: maintaining his credibility and cool, but making it a little more accessible for the masses,” co-producer, Steven Kotecha said about the new album. “He was very brave to do it. He wanted more and he made the right move.”

Dive into The Weeknd’s new project below, and please, by all means, listen to Lana’s feature on “Prisoner.” You’d be doing yourself a disservice otherwise!

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