As an art-damaged strain of electronic R&B enters its next phase, the Weeknd’s unique selling proposition is sadomasochistic bleakness. Frank Ocean has soaring storytelling, Miguel has Prince-ly psychedelia, Holy Other has pitch-shifty murk, and How to Dress Well has falsettoed spirituality, but what most distinguishes Abel Tesfaye’s Toronto outfit is its seductive perversity. “Bring your love baby I could bring my shame,” as early champion Drake tweeted in March 2011, quoting “Wicked Games,” a rock-scarred standout from the Weeknd’s debut mixtape House of Balloons.
A newly mastered and mixed version of “Wicked Games,” the first single from the Weeknd’s upcoming Universal Republic debut Trilogy (due out November 13), has surfaced online, as Rap-Up points out. If being perverse is what makes the Weeknd the Weeknd, then it’s somehow fitting that this radio-ready take is not only spruced up musically, but also, duh, lyrically censored. That’s the most overt difference between the new version and the mixtape original: The shame is now too much, apparently, but what Drake and other Weeknd-fanciers loved is still intact. If Fifty Shades of Grey can be a best-seller, then this soundtrack to some imagined, stripper-filled opium den might still work while blaring out of car radios on Top 40 FM. Everybody’s a pervert nowadays.