The Weeknd Imbues ‘Enemy’ With the Smiths’ Seductive Power
Viva Hate: Nihilistic slow brooder isn't on forthcoming 'Trilogy' track list
One way the Weeknd frontman Abel Tesfaye has signaled his difference from more conventional R&B stars (see Frank Ocean, Miguel, and Holy Other Usher in PBR&B 2.0) has been through his use of samples. He has tended to draw from rock critic-approved sources, though generally ones that already share elements of his sexual menace: Beach House and Siouxsie and the Banshees, as well as more predictable R&B influence Aaliyah — who, let’s not forget, starred in a film called Queen of the Damned. On “Enemy,” a new song posted last night that does not appear to be one of the three bonus tracks set for November 13 major-label debut Trilogy, the Weeknd appropriates an indie kid-beloved source with a more subtle approach to twisted seduction: the Smiths.
Let’s not forget that around the time of 1984’s “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” (originally a B-side but later included on the essential Louder Than Bombs and Hatful of Hollow compilations, as was the Smiths’ collector-friendly style), Morrissey and his bandmates were going around loudly proclaiming his celibacy in interviews. And yet the naked lust in the slow, short song is obvious, and in its own way as manipulative as the Weeknd’s. The bookish virgin selfishly identifying with this song might not notice its creepy undertones, but the needinesss in the Smiths frontman’s vocal is so intense that slipping it on a pre-romance mix CD is almost like asking for a pity fuck.
The Weeknd isn’t asking for a pity fuck on “Enemy.” He’s demanding to fuck you up, fuck you, and then leave, no words exchanged (except maybe through song). But ever the evil Romeo, Tesfaye frames his cynical proposition as a polite request, crooning along to what appears to be a down-pitched Smiths sample, “Please, please, please let me get what I want this time.” The backing is typical for the Weeknd, darkly churning and cinematic, and his feathery vocals are up front, not shrouded in reverb. “I’d rather be your enemy / Than any friend you think I would be,” Tesfaye insists. Or as Morrissey once put it, “Life is never kind / Oh, but I know what will make you smile tonight.” It’s been a long week. Have a drink.