By the time The Weeknd released Thursday, just five months after his debut mixtape, the world still knew little about him but remained hopelessly drawn into his darkness. The singer's cocktail of hedonism and anonymity made his second effort equally as potent as his first, thrusting listeners into his intoxicating world of sex and drugs once more. “It seems like pain and regret are your best friends, 'cause everything you do leads to them,” he coos on the tape's opening verse, a masochist courting a masochist.
Thursday, which appears here with all of its original samples restored, is somehow even more joyless than its predecessor—tinges of aggression slice through the atmospherics of the production, and callousness wipes out any semblance of pretense. He spends the majority of the songs cautioning a would-be lover away, but his fragile falsetto is a starmaker capable of wringing sympathy from even the most skeptical listeners; it almost sounds like earnest concern when he begs, “Don't you fall in love, don't make me make you fall in love,” on “The Birds, Pt. 1.” The Weeknd knows that humans are compelled towards that which repels them, and he uses that fact to his advantage here to create tension both between the characters of his lyrics and between himself and his audience. He knows, perhaps better than many, that the things we crave most are those that come with a warning label.