Weeknd: Playing on Prefix

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How to Dress Well’s passionate, ethereal soundscapes and you hear the ghosts of D’Angelo and Blackstreet appearing in the haze.

Odd Future’s crooner Frank Ocean joined the-Dream and Drake by making mainstream-styled sex tracks cool again. Canada’s The Weeknd, who may or may not be a single dude named Abel Tesfaye (rumors place producers Doc McKinney and Illangelo under the Weeknd moniker as well), split the difference, rocking R. Kelly sex swing choruses while burying them under a dreamy ecstasy haze.

Call it sexgaze.

House of Balloons, the Weeknd’s initial mixtape, dropped this past March and top to bottom is one of the strongest full-length listens of the year thus far.

The run from opener “High For This” to “The Morning” is an astounding testimony to the power of sultry crooning and emotional honesty, something that Tesfaye and his (possible) team excel at.

The Weeknd – The Morning by The_Weeknd

The Weeknd temper their Top 40 aspirations and Tesfaye’s American Idol-sized singing talent with a tangible, earnest misery. “The Morning” carefully illustrates the life of a stripper — living with other working girls, calling cabs at 6:45 in the morning, folding up dollar bills — with both celebration and sympathy. On “The Knowing”, Tesfaye insists “I know everything” with such heartbroken honesty that you almost believe him.

Just recently, the Weeknd announced that they’re dropping two more mixtapes by the end of 2011, which may or may not include a Drake collaboration.

Rolling Stones,” the first preview of those mixtapes, rocks vaguely flamenco-tinted guitars as Tesfaye oozes sensually over the top. Forget the mystery, the XO logo, the debates about who is or isn’t in the Weeknd.

The Weeknd – Rolling Stone by The_Weeknd

Whoever they may be, they’re at the front of this sexgaze spearhead.

By Chris Bosman