“THE DAWN IS HERE!!!” The Weeknd tweeted early this morning as the first song of his new era was released. Like the creeping arrival of sunrise, ‘Take My Breath’ starts to illuminate what’s next for Abel Tesfaye following his massive ‘After Hours’ chapter last year. Will it be a natural step forward from a period that saw him release his best album yet, headline the Super Bowl and create a distinctive world featuring an iconic red blazer and bandaged face? Or will it take us in a completely different direction?
Provided ‘Take My Breath’ isn’t a massive red herring, it looks like the former. The track is a delicious mix of Michael Jackson-indebted pop, funk, dark, lasering synth-wave and the kind of classy disco sounds that wouldn’t be out of place on a Giorgio Moroder or old-school Daft Punk record. It’s not quite in the same sonic wheelhouse as ‘After Hours’, but not miles apart from it either; as if Tesfaye has taken up residence in an adjacent neighbourhood rather than skip town completely.
The Weeknd’s last record was a depiction of Hollywood and the damage that that enclave’s darkness can inflict on people, and we’d imagine his next album – thought to be called ‘The Dawn’ – will have a similarly strong storyline. If you were expecting ‘Take My Breath’ to let us in on what that might be, though, you’ll be disappointed. It looks like we’ll need a bit more material before we can pin down where Tesfaye is taking us this time.
What we do know is the new track sticks to his classic M.O. of dressing up darkness in a song that absolutely slaps. “You pull me closer, feel the heat between your thighs,” he purrs seductively on the second verse, before initiating a U-turn into a thought far bleaker: “You’re way too young to end your life.” Even the chorus’ infectious call of “Take my breath away / And make it last forever, babe” has undertones of death.
Perhaps it’s not a way out of life that the person Tesfaye is singing to is looking for, though. He introduces us to a character who is in pursuit of fantasy, who is ready to “risk it all to feel alive”. Escapism and satisfaction feel like the order of the day, particularly in a sexual context, as our guide – now wearing a leather trench in place of that red blazer – boasts: “Ooh it’s like a dream, what she feels with me / She loves to be on the edge / Her fantasy is OK with me.”
As the beginning of The Weeknd’s new era, ‘Take My Breath’ is a strong first step – a song that should become as much of a pop mainstay as any of ‘After Hours’’s smashes. What’s most intriguing about it, though, is what it’s not telling us; what is going to come next. For that, we’ll have to wait – but at least Tesfaye’s given us something new to dance to in the meantime.