Breaking the Mold: Boukary Breakdances Way to New Worlds

Boukary Niakate in action at Snug Harbor in Charlotte (photo courtesy Knockturnal)

By Fredy Rodriguez Mera

In a club ambience, two big pieces of plywood are set on the floor forming a rectangular shape, quickly stuck together with duct tape and ready for a pounding. As in many sports routines, an initial warm-up starts the competitive juices flowing as one-by-one the dancers spontaneously hit the dance floor. Money, reputation, and respect hangs on the line as the audience screams for their favorite and amplifies the pressure. One dancer machine guns short leg kicks while spinning around his planted arm, resembling a car doing a doughnut; another uses his own head as an axis, spinning with legs wide open and using his arms as thrusts. Unlike most dances, this one can make you dizzy standing still.

The art of breakdancing was born from the hip-hop beats in the 70s in the New York City borough of the Bronx. It has become a cultural phenomenon that has spread all over the world and inspired many. That long reach includes one of tonight’s performers at Snug Harbor in downtown Charlotte, Frenchman Boukary Niakate, someone whose passion has taken him further than he ever expected. “Breakdancing has shown me that you only need to share one passion to connect,” says Boukary. “When I arrived in New York, I barely knew English, but that didn’t matter because dancing became the first language and thanks to that I have been able to communicate with people that have led me to travel the world.”

The Mali-born Boukary is a 26-year-old who left his home country and was raised in the suburbs of Pontault Combault, outside Paris. Thanks in great part to breakdancing, the third youngest of 16 siblings has spent most of his life doing the things he loves; dancing, filming and traveling the world. Breakdancing, his ultimate passion, has allowed him not only to compete and show his talent but opened doors of opportunities around the globe.

Eleven years ago, one afternoon while walking home from school, Boukary stopped outside a training room and was enlightened by what he saw and how cool it was. “I stopped and watched for a long time,” he says. Boukary observed break-dancers through the street window, but it wasn’t until months later that the opportunity to take action was presented to him. Thanks to a friend of one of his brothers who began breakdancing, Boukary got the chance to visit the same training room he used to observe and got a taste that never went away.

As soon as he stepped inside that room and discovered a passionate and driven community, a member immediately introduced himself and spontaneously began teaching Boukary small moves that would take him on a big voyage. “At this time, I said I want to do this all my life,” he said, smiling and sure of his decision.

Boukary soon joined the French dance crew whom he met, called Outlaw. Before discovering his dancing talents, he looked to have a promising future in the local soccer team, which he ditched to pursue his artistic talents. In the following years, using breakdancing as his passport, Boukary got to travel all around Europe performing in local, national, and international competitions, plus also often exhibiting theater performances. By the age of 17 he had traveled over most of France and by the age of 20 through most of Europe.

But he wasn’t just dancing. Boukary attended university and earned degrees in history, dance, and music. He also joined a rock band called W.E.T, which had its moment of fame on national French TV. He also created his own dance company by the time he was 23 years old. “It was hard for me to deal with all this, it took a lot of commitment.” he says.

His company Groove Workers was the fruit of his Outlaw and W.E.T band experience. The philosophy of the company was to incorporate classic, break and contemporary dance together with jazz music to tell a story on stage. The company has gotten a lot of praise and has charged up to 2,000 Euros to perform at special events. Knowing that he was able to create the company, he applied everything he had learned, and saw film as the art form that would catapult him overseas, so his film project was born.

Self-taught about filming and editing, Boukary embarked on his first film, From New York to New Orleans. The plan was simple: Boukary and his musician friend Valentin Lepagnez dreamt of a

French poster for Boukary Niakate’s second film, “From Seattle to Los Angeles”

road trip around the East coast of the U.S. to explore art culture and the birth of jazz. They pitched the project to various sponsors in France, and got half of the $6,000 budget. Over the course of their travels, they connected with other artists.  “It was like we knew each other long time ago, but it was because we were musicians and no matter who we were, we had that instant friendly connection.” Boukary says.

Musicians, dancers, and skaters from all back grounds were filmed, unknown local artists like Boukary and Valentin. They wanted to show artists that did the same things they did, and highlight their stories and how they came to be, but also show how artistic localism varied around different parts of the East coast.

From New York to New Orleans was shown in over 20 theaters in France, and in one small town so many people attended that even local officials were impressed. “The mayor told me that he couldn’t believe how many people my film attracted and how there were people from all classes united by the film,” Boukary says.

One of the friendships Boukary made on the way to New Orleans was in Charlotte, where he first met Mark Robertson while dancing at Snug Harbor. “He is such a nice person with so much energy, I knew he was going to be good, but not amazing,” Mark says when asked about how good Boukary is. After more than a dozen times competing against each other, often for money and bragging rights, they know how to leave their friendship aside when hitting the dance floor. “He is a tough competitor that never quits, but after the music stops I just can’t help but smile with him, I admire his talent,” Mark says.

Boukary went on to create a film sequel, From Seattle to Los Angeles, which followed the same structure as From New York to New Orleans, meeting with local artist and interacting with them. “I was curious to see how artists differentiated from the East coast, Seattle is also a main city for rock music and Los Angeles has a strong connection with skate boarding and breakdancing,” he says.

But in between these projects, Boukary was offered an opportunity by a dancing academy in France to travel to Peru and Madagascar to volunteer and teach dance in local schools. He said that it was important for him to teach such uncommon dance in those countries because maybe one day some of them would have the opportunity to travel because of it, just as he did. “It was a great experience, and helped me to see the world even more. It’s amazing where dance can take you,” Boukary says.

In his journey, Boukary has had not only the support of his big family and all the friends made along the way, but from his fiancé whom he met in kindergarten, Aurelia Gaza. “She is my best friend and the love of my live, she has motivated big part of my success,” he says fondly. For years they sustained a long-distance relationship while she arrived first to the States for her bachelor’s degree, as he went around countries. This year Boukary decided to settle down and make Charlotte his home base from wherever he decides to go next.

Boukary’s passions have taken him further than he had ever thought, he’s traveled several countries, and touched the heart of many people showing his talent through the art of breakdancing. For him this is just the beginning and at such young age he plans to follow his filming success, “I am very excited for what the future holds and all the places I have yet to travel, I can’t wait.”


Dreads, Skulls, and Thrones: Ancestry Inspires in Albert Chong’s Amalgamation Photo taken by Remy Thurston
Photo taken by Remy Thurston

In the middle of Albert Chong’s new exhibit perches an enormous winged wooden throne atop a five-point star covered in down feathers. This piece, along with Chong’s other works, are evidence of his diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds. Amalgamation: The Mixed-Media Works of Albert Chong is currently on display at UNC Charlotte’s downtown campus Projective Eye Gallery through Dec. 4.

Much of Chong’s work is inspired by his mixed descent – he’s the son of Afro-Caribbean and Chinese parents – and bi-national status (he emigrated from Jamaica to the U.S. in 1971), as well as a blend of religions. Through these experiences, Chong’s work intertwines often diverse themes such as tragedy and beauty, modern and vintage, and aspects of Catholicism, Rastafarianism, and Santeria. Even his photographs, mostly black and white, take dramatic, contrasting shades of dark black and luminous white; the shades are sharp, not blending.

The throne at the center of the gallery is the only interactive piece in the exhibit – when you sit in the chair, the motorized wings begin flapping – is a theme that’s repeated in many of Chong’s large-format, predominantly black-and-white photos on the walls, too. Chairs abound in these works, an allusion, says curator Christa Cammarato, to Chong’s African ancestry. Like much of his work, the throne theme is intricately tied to Chong’s mixed background. Cammarato explains the history and significance of the chair based on African heritage. “The chair, or the throne, has particular meaning. If you escaped and had the chair, that was really meaningful; you took the seat of the soul.”

Many of the photos of Chong’s installation works showcase his cut-off dread locks as part of the piece. One of Chong’s photographs displays a cross with Jesus resting in a glass surrounded by  cut-off dreads, atop the seat of a chair – the latter a common theme in his photos from the African belief that the seat is the seat of the soul. The dreads signify his African heritage and ancestry, such as cutting ties or losing loved ones. But, the scene also represents the blending of religions, just as Chong and his work blends many faiths. The cross and Jesus represent Christianity, the dreads signify Rastafarianism, and the chair links to his African roots and Obeah.

Another of Chong’s photographs centered around the throne theme is a larger design with fruit. Chong surrounds a simple dining table chair with rows of apples and a few pineapples. The back of the chair is lined with thorns and the skull of a monkey rests on the seat. Again, Chong mixes opposites-the fruit around the chair is natural soft, and represents life. On the other hand, the thorns are harsh and sharp and the skull alludes to death. Cammarato explains, “There’s the beautiful and the tragic, but that’s really about life, whether we want it to be or not, that’s what it is.” Contrasts are both apparent and implied, a theme that runs through Chong’s work.

Many of Chong’s photographs are bordered with copper and engraved writing. Many of the copper lined pieces show old photos of Chong’s father or artifacts such as his passport and driver’s license. The engraved words tell the history of Chong and his father, following the theme of family heritage that guides much of Chong’s work.

The Beauty and Grotesque Find Solace in Albert Chong’s Amalgamation

Albert Chong sitting in his Throne for the 3rd Millennium Photo taken by Remy Thurston Source:

Albert Chong sitting in his Throne for the 3rd Millennium
Photo taken by Remy Thurston

Perched in the middle of the Projective Eye Gallery on the Uptown UNC Charlotte campus sits a throne with motorized wings, the centerpiece of the new exhibit, Amalgamation: The Mixed Media Works of Albert Chong. Whereas most gallery and museum-goers are told what not to touch, the “Throne of the Third Millenium” literally invites the gallery-goer to sit and partake in the exhibit. It is here that photographer Albert Chong dedicates a shrine to the attendanees, while also challenging them about how to experience visual arts.

Growing up in Jamaica, Chong was of mixed Asian and Afro-Caribbean descent, and experienced several different religions including Catholicism, Rastafarianism and Santeria, the inspiration behind Amalgamation. The exhibit has over three decades of Chong’s work, including family portraits, self-portraits and still-lifes.

In 1977, Chong immigrated to New York, further disconnecting himself from his roots. It’s why Chong depicts his family related photos in copper framing. Although he has lost contact with a lot of his family, Director of Galleries Christa Cammaroto claims his use of inscribed copper acts as a tablet for telling their stories.

“He had a deep connection to his family and was trying to help bridge that gap so there’s always this level of decay and beauty at the same time, it’s like longing and hope at the same time,” says  Cammaroto, who was a student of Chong’s.

With works such as “Trinidadian Venues” and “Jesus, Mary and the Perfect Whiteman,” physical damages to the prints are intentionally included. Chong could have easily cropped out the white streaks on the edges of the former, but leaves them in. He repeats this in his “Throne” series, allowing the sprocket holes, the dripping Polaroid chemicals and Kodak branding to be seen. By using older photographs, it plays on this theme of nostalgia. Chong clearly has an affection for the photos’ deeper beauty, but to the passing observer, the flaws are more likely to catch their attention.

There’s also a mystical element that’s more realized in his self-portrait “Natural Mystic,” where, thanks to slow exposures, he appears to be fading while sitting down in a chair. It relates back to Chong’s family relationship as the more his appearance deteriorates, the more distant he becomes with them.

With “Throne for the Keeper,” he depicts a nest of eggs, each with a punctured hole, one of many items in what Cammarato calls Chong’s “Shamanic tool chest.” Hovering over the nest is an ape-like skull with a claw resting on top. Cammarato suggests that it relates to the theme of wisdom, one that can be achieved without intelligence which she suggests stems from our more instinctual ancestors, monkeys.

Repulsive at first glance, the image conveys a sense of trust in Cammaroto’s opinion. “I have a level of trust with it because there’s the beautiful and the grotesque together, it’s not just beauty and it’s not just ugly, it’s a little bit of both,” she says.

But Chong retains a deep spiritual connection to his family. Because of his unapologetic fondness for imperfection, he finds the inner beauty in the unattractive and decayed. That’s what ultimately makes Amalgamation compelling: Chong’s nostalgia-driven and unyielding display of work that highlights both his affection for his family and the strange and unique.

Whitechapel Separates Itself, But Struggles With Holding Viewers

Gibson Bailey


You can follow the steps of plenty of detectives in television dramas, but you’ll end up watching them unzip body bag after body bag, and finding the same grimy killer that almost got away with it at the end of each show. But Whitechapel, a three-part BBC series, is offering a longer plot to the mysterious serial killer, Jack The Ripper, who remains to be unlinked to his murders. If you’re looking to respond to anonymous shrill screams in the night, BBC’s Whitechapel is

Following in the literal footsteps of Jack the Ripper and, through his same Whitechapel haunts, is another serial killer who is one step ahead of detectives Joseph Chandler and Ray Miles. These two primary detectives Chandler, the newest addition to London’s inspectors, is a fast-paced obsessive/compulsive with affixation on neatness and cleanliness, starting with his own face. Detective Miles, meanwhile, is a veteran copper who has no time to waste and is certain Chandler’s lack of experience means he has no business being chief of detectives.

The story unfolds slowly. You won’t find stark camera cuts or a solution to the madness anytime soon, but that might just be writer Ben Court’s plan as he entices his audience along into following a wannabe Jack the Ripper as he recreates the infamous murders. The story has some holes in it, as leads often appear randomly, sometimes almost too randomly, as if characters just happen to be in the right place at the right time. But these faults don’t hinder the overall success of the show’s entertainment, because behind the randomness are scenes where the BBC’s limits to carnage is are tested. The crime scene is in fact where we return episode after episode as the detectives try to find some key to who might want to do this grisly recreation. Crimes scenes are vital to any crime series, but Whitechapel really caters to the appalling reality of homicide through CSI-style close-ups of the mutilated bodies. Although a returning Jack The Ripper is a little far- fetched, we can’t deny the realism of the crime and autopsy scenes through the series.

The dialogue lacks in certain areas, such as in the discussion between extras and detectives. But the introduction of new characters and possible suspects keeps the show moving. We’re given background, a reason for their presence, and often times left to see if they add any value to the case, as if the viewer were one of the detectives.

This is a key to the genre: keep the audience thinking, guessing, wanting. A crime drama can’t stand on its own without some of this recipe scattered into each episode. Too much, though, and you might lose your viewer. Too little and you’ve made your “detectives” look like they should be hopping out of the Mystery Machine with the gang. Whitechapel successfully strings its viewers through a series of re-done crimes, without redoing the typical crime drama filter.


Whitechapel’s clichés rip it of almost any originality



TV Review

Rating: 6/10

When young Detective Inspector Joseph Chandler (Rupert Penry-Jones) is assigned to the Whitechapel police squad, both he and veteran DS Ray Miles (Phil Davis) must settle their differences to catch a Jack the Ripper copycat killer. The first season of BBC’s Whitechapel is a solid start, but viewers must get past a slow-paced and cliché-driven pilot before getting invested.

The pilot focuses too much on Chandler and Miles as they quarrel about their opposing police methods instead of actual crime solving. The conflict between the two is forced, just to prove Miles is wrong and the new detective is right. It’s unrealistic that Miles wouldn’t believe Chandler’s copycat killer theory despite the overwhelming connections, but the predictable conflict demands the face-off. Because of this clichéd personality clash, it distracts from the main plot, leading to the pilot’s foreseeable ending.

Because this pilot is so cliché-heavy, Chandler has a health/psychological problem similar to Will Graham in NBC’s Hannibal. But whereas Graham’s was used as a crime-solving aide, Chandler’s opening-scenes OCD is nearly forgotten until the season finale.

Another weakness is Whitechapel’s use of quick cuts. As if the show didn’t rehash detective and buddy cop tropes enough, it rips off scene transitions from CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Thankfully, later episodes use them less frequently.

Detective Inspector Joseph Chandler (RUpert Penry-Jones) Source: ITV/Rex Features,

Detective Inspector Joseph Chandler (Rupert Penry-Jones)
Source:, ITV/Rex Features

In the second episode, the dry British wit is better utilized leading to a humorous interrogation scene with their first suspect. It’s easily the best episode as Chandler and Miles settle their differences to try and prevent the next murder. This leads to a shocking and satisfying cliffhanger, and it’s here that Whitechapel takes advantage of the music, for instance, using a ticking clock to amplify the intensity of a situation.

The last of the three-episode first season keeps most of that same great pace, despite an unnecessary subplot involving Ripperologist Edward Buchan (Steve Pemberton). Initially, Buchan was the show’s most unique character because of his disturbing Ripper obsession and dark sense of humor. But by the third episode, it’s difficult to take him seriously when he publicly denounces himself as a Ripperologist. It’s silly given the character’s lack of notoriety as evident by the low amount of attendants on his tours. Even his transition is rushed when his latest tour goes haywire, resulting in his tourists unrealistically mocking him and the recent murders. The ridicule comes out of nowhere, a forced plot device to motivate Buchan’s reason for quitting.

In the finale, Chandler and Miles conduct another interrogation and a series of interviews to prevent the copycat from claiming his final victim. The reveal of the killer’s identity is surprisingly satisfying, ditching the paranormal hints from the pilot for something more grounded. There’s even a great bonding moment in a diner where Miles gives an insightful and humorous monologue to Chandler about dealing with the stress of police work.

Although the Jack the Ripper storyline seems concluded, it might be worthwhile to see what other copycat murders the Whitechapel squad tries to solve next.

BBC’s Modern Jack the Ripper fails to Kill


Bill Young/ TellySpotting



The BBC crime thriller Whitechapel is meant to bring us back to the murder scenes of Jack the Ripper’s infamous crimes, but is more likely to take the viewer back to the odd, cheesy, overly dramatic cop shows of the 1990s. As a BBC show, expectations are high, but this crime drama is ripe with cliches and disappoints in too many areas.

The three-episode first season is about a modern day Jack the Ripper and the new inspector who must prove himself to his new co-workers. While struggling to earn the cooperation of his new squad of washed up, buffoonish detectives, Inspector Joseph Chandler, played by Rupert Penry-Jones, collaborates with an eccentric Jack the Ripper expert/tour guide played by Steve Pemberton.

This band of lazy and seemingly mindless coppers is led by Detective Ray Miles (Phillip Davis), the bitter, old boss resistant to accepting his new boss; the whole group challenges and demeans Chandler, not taking his job title or his theories seriously. This tired scenario alone has been played out time and time again-the new guy is unpopular and struggles at first, but then does something amazing and earns the respect of all. Aside from this overdone plot, the characters are predictable, underdeveloped, and one-sided; as adults (and detectives), the fellow lawmen are unrealistically shallow and dimwitted. They follow their old boss, Miles, like dogs do their masters. It’s not wrong to have unintelligent characters, but Whitechapel’s fool detectives are just weak characters.

Veronica Lee/TheArtsDesk

Veronica Lee/TheArtsDesk

While the concept of a Ripper imitator may draw in viewers, they’ll leave disappointed with writing and acting that falls short. For example, whenever D.I. Chandler is stressed about not solving the case, he repeatedly rubs his face and pulls his hair as a presumable sign of his obsessive/compulsive disorder, one that goes along with his general fastidiousness. This is shown across different settings for a good solid minute of film time in what could’ve been done in 10 well-timed seconds. In another example of the show’s poor, unrealistic, and often cheesy writing, the detectives find a dead body in another scene and the old boss, who did not support Chandler’s Ripper copycat theory, bitterly tells him, “Congratulations, you were right.”

Even the cinematography fails at trying to add to the show’s eerie ambiance with odd scene cuts and awkward transitions. Between scenes, the camera suddenly flashes to shaky, blurry images of a mysterious man in a long, dark trench coat wandering around the city with a knife, and then randomly returns to the story. The action sequences, too, force the excitement and intensity with seizure-like shaky-cam, or with the camera spinning around a character who frantically turns around over and over. This may scare some vertigo sufferers, but the general cinematography tends toward overkill in trying to emulate suspense.

One of the show’s redeeming qualities is the concept of a Jack the Ripper copycat killer. This is a little more unique and appealing than most crime shows that feature a different case and killer each episode. However, the story is played out slowly until the last episode where it seems the director had to cram in material to conclude the season. The detectives suddenly find clues they missed before and conveniently stumble upon the killer’s apartment building on the first try; they then predictably get to the scene at the last minute, just saving the girl. These lucky progressions in solving the case seem to come from nowhere, with hardly any police work. This adds to the already underdeveloped and predictable nature of Whitechapel, which not even the most mysterious killer of all time can make interesting.

Review: Currents – Tame Impala

Currents – Tame Impala
by Bruna Schwetter

Michael Bezjian/Getty

Michael Bezjian/Getty

After two great studio albums responsible for making this Australian group an important name in the music world, Tame Impala’s latest work proves that changing doesn’t have to always be tricky — especially when you decide to embrace the interior currents flowing inside you.

Currents, their third disc, embodies that change, and was completely and skillfully recorded by Kevin Parker, the 29-year-old musician leading the band. Unlike previous albums, Currents definitely prioritizes keyboards and synthesizers rather than guitars, resulting in an organic, super retro and danceable album. Of course, the psychedelic thing is still there, but now it is mixed with a lot of dance, 70s soul, R&B and even hip-hop elements, packaged in what comes off as a sincere pop playlist.

Album Artwork by Robert Beatty

The cover art by Robert Beatty tells us about a certain chaos or disorder going on. And that’s not the only clue that these XX songs chronicle the band’s changing attitudes. The lyrics can also be taken as Parker’s explanations for this total submersion in his old intrinsic feelings that won’t please some fans, as in the great “Yes, I’m Changing.” Coherent from beginning to end, Currents certainly came to pass a message forward: “Let it happen.” That’s why it’s such a wise choice to open the LP. This upbeat single is an essential example of what these “currents” are all about: following intuitiveness.

The guitars with delay, the hypnotic atmospheres and synthesizers of Lonerism (2012) and InnerSpeaker (2010) have not disappeared entirely. But, this time listeners can notice a remarkable new way in which the guitars are inserted, in specific moments, increasing the sound of the keys and the bass. The primacy of these instruments — and also of the synthesizers — is significant in all tracks, but is brilliantly explicit in “The Moment” and in the outstanding singles “Cause I’m a Man” and “Eventually.”

Currents is a sort of release disc. All of the doubts, tentative musical shadows and uncertain feelings shyly presented in the previous two albums have resulted in this dazzling melodic, solar, open and fearless act. Currents definitely came to take listeners to a new place: heaven.

Travi$ Scott Fails to Take Listeners By The Horns With Rodeo

H-Town’s very own cowboy, Travi$ Scott, has just released his first full length EP titled, Rodeo. As a producer and songwriter for Grand Hustle, Travis has received a considerable amount of hype over the last two years. If you attended his “western” constructed tour, you might find him throwing up on stage or mindlessly humming the tune to his songs, a performance worthy of recent debut. Rodeo was of course released to fit this theme of a literal ‘wild’ west.

Scott doesn’t manage to grab his listener with Rodeo, but instead hesitantly takes them through a muddled stream of 16 disjointed tracks scattered with features. What initially mirrors the story style of Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon, quickly turns into a mockery of it. Led by T.I.’s southern drawl, we get a narrative that places the listener in Rodeo through the albums intro “Pornography,” an auto-tuned invitation into Scott’s self-created, but mostly self-fulfilled rodeo.

Travi$ Scott

Between guest features from Future, Juicy J, Toro Y Moi, and Justin Bieber, Rodeo manages to gain a variety of artists, but this is where Scott looses most of his listeners. Under Kanye West’s wing G.O.O.D Music, he’s been spoon fed features while gaining popularity from his erratic ‘rodeo’ themed tour. Despite such a strong presence and campaign for the 23 city tour, there’s a stark contrast to his physical presence on the album. In the song “Maria I’m Drunk,” (featuring Bieber and Young Thug) Scott sounds particularly removed. Representing a certain absence, he shifts in and out while his cameos truly polish the track. With such little presence, Scott’s featured guests seem to be leading his Rodeo.

As disjointed as most of the tracks are, like “Piss On Your Grave, which resembles a jigsaw puzzle piece forced into play, the overall production is decent. Between producers Wondagurl and Ritter, tracks like “Antidote” and “Impossible” are fluid and full of clean transitions. What oddly characterizes this album is its variety in production despite most tracks featuring the same producers. Separated, many of the tracks from Rodeo can stand alone. But that wasn’t Scott’s aim with Rodeo’s overall theme. It is supposed to be a collection of tracks, carrying the listener through a journey, but in the end falls short with flat grandeur. If you survived the Rodeo, as Travis often asks his listeners, you might be wishing you hadn’t taken the ride in the first place.

The Weeknd Finds His Stride in Pop with new Record : Review

The Weeknd – Beauty Behind the Madness
(Release Date : August 28th,2015)
Will Foster

Three years ago, most people would not have recognized the name The Weeknd. Now, in 2015, The Weeknd, born Abel Tesfaye, is co-headlining Jay-Z’s “Made in America” music festival alongside Beyoncé. With the arrival of his second major label album, “Beauty Behind the Madness,” Abel Tesfaye has channeled his moody style into a fantastic pop statement.
Madness follows his 2013 release, Kiss Land, which critics acclaimed but which failed to take Tesfaye into superstar status. With this record, though, Tesfaye tries his hand at more conventional pop music and fills the LP with monster hooks, intimate lyrics, and guest spots from some of the biggest artists in the game – all the things that make a hit album in 2015. Some say that he is drifting away from his roots, but all of the dark, promiscuous themes are still here and accounted for. Its triumph comes from mastering this style into a sound that is distinctly pop and radio friendly.
Lead single “The Hills” and the follow up smash, “Can’t Feel My Face” have become radio staples, and it’s no surprise why. “Face” sees Tesfaye partner with pop production superpower Max Martin on a track that depicts a woman Tesfaye knows will “be the death of me,” but with whom he continues to engage. This timeless tale, combined with Martin’s funky, addictive beats results in one of the most iconic choruses of 2015.
Tesfaye’s voice has repeatedly been likened to Michael Jackson’s, and “In the Night” could easily be 2015’s updated version of “Billie Jean,” the 1982 Jackson classic.
But Tesfaye has not forgotten his moody, suggestive style as shown by “Prisoner,” a collaboration with singer Lana Del Rey.
“I’m a prisoner to my addiction/ I’m addicted to a life that’s so empty and so cold” the duo sings over a pulsating bass drop on a track whose lyrics could have come from 2011’s mixtape, House of Balloons.
Beauty Behind the Madness, is a strong contender to boost The Weeknd into superstardom. It has the beats, the lyrics, and Abel Tesfaye has the star power. He hasn’t succumbed to the madness, but rather made something beautiful – and probably enormously popular – out of it.


The Weeknd returns to his old tricks in Beauty Behind The Madness

Cd Review


The Weeknd, otherwise known as Abel Tesfaye is a Canadian R&B singer from Toronto Canada, known for his dark beats and lyrics about a grungy drug addled lifestyle. He recently released his third album, Beauty Behind the Madness, which gives glimpses of what fans came to love, but ends up reverting to the more pop influenced style of 2013s Kiss Land.

Beauty Behind The Madness feels much more like The Weeknds classic style, and that isn’t a mistake. As his popularity grows The Weeknd will likely try to appeal to a wider audience, and soften the edges of his music, however in this outing he pulls no punches. Dark pounding beats reminiscent of EDM and lyrics about cocaine and party girls litter the album. However its hard to believe that this is truly the old Weeknd since he exploded onto the national music scene.b3cc6f4bcaa50341782dc0381d6be289.579x573x1

The two stand out songs are Often and The Hills both of which feel very much like they belong on House of Balloons or Thursday (some of Tesfayes earliest work). But in other songs like the hit single “I Cant Feel My Face” its as if Tesfaye is still trying to capture his previous sound and begrudgingly softening his edge in order to appeal to a wider audience through poppier beats and more upbeat vocals.

When in his element with his original sound (roughly half the album) The Weeknd is hard to deny, its easy to get swept up in his lyrics. That even extends to him mocking the emptiness of his current celebrity lifestyle contrasting with how he was when he wrote the songs in the mixtapes, which propelled him to stardom. In “Tell Your Friends” he mocks other celebrities, saying “They do too much flexing” and “I do shit I want don’t need no blessing”. Sending a message that he isn’t about showing off like other artists and wont let the business tell him how to shape his sound.

When The Weeknd goes back to his roots instead of pandering to a more radio PG-13 audience the album is great, those who were fans of that original sound will not be disappointed. However has his star grows, you shouldn’t expect much of that sound to remain.