The second major label album from Canadian Abel Tesfaye, Beauty Behind The Madness has been widely seen as the record which will not only break him commercially on a global scale, but the full flowering of a tremendous talent.
I’m not so sure. Tesfaye knows how to craft a darkly funky urban groove, that’s for certain, and there are plenty of examples on Beauty…, not least the opening one-two of Real Life and the Labrinth-starring Losers. He’s got a talent for melody, too, as showcased on the two UK hit singles herein, namely Earned It (from the Fifty Shades Of Grey soundtrack) and the single-of-the-year contender Can’t Feel My Face.
But over the course of a 65-minute album, it all starts to feel way too heavy and painfully cool and serious. I can’t hear much soul and the lyrics don’t help, either, with their talk of “bitches” and other phrases unsuitable for printing in a family newspaper.
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By Andrew Greenhalgh