For an artist like The Weeknd, putting together a greatest hits compilation must be especially difficult; each era and microevolution of his career feels deserving unto itself. His second such collection, The Highlights, manages the task with ease, pulling together all of his, well, highlights, stretching all the way to the beginning to include two cuts from his 2011 debut House of Balloons. (The Highlights' release only misses the 10-year anniversary mark by a month.)
In a clever touch, the compilation doesn't unfold sequentially. Instead, it gets moodier and darker as it goes on. The bright keys and danceable Max Martin-produced '80s pop that have defined the latter half of his career open the proceedings like the climb of an intensely euphoric high. Songs like “Save Your Tears” (from 2020's After Hours), “Can't Feel My Face” (from 2015's Beauty Behind the Madness), and “Starboy” (from 2016's Starboy) sound like neon club lights and the sins committed beneath them. Then it pivots, slowly but steadily, to the comedown, where the singer's self-loathing finds a natural match in hazier, muddier productions. By the time the run of songs that includes “Call Out My Name” (from 2018's My Dear Melancholy,), “Die for You” (Starboy), and “Earned It” (Beauty) arrives, it's all id and nothing to cut it. And where else to go from there but to the original blueprint of his wounded, bleeding heart—“Wicked Games” and “The Morning” (both from House of Balloons)—where the lines between pleasure and pain blur into oblivion.