Ever since The Weeknd rose to fame in the early 2010’s, commercial R&B music has taken a turn away from the soulful. The Weeknd’s dark and whiny vocals come from a position of disillusionment and detachment, rather than heartfelt passion.
It is a nihilistic longing full of despair rather than a hopeful longing…which demonstrates the distancing from R&B’s roots: Gospel and Negro Spirituals, which gave voice to faith in the promise of a benevolent deity who provides for those who have endured heartbreak, oppression, and suffering.
The Weeknd’s music embodies a secular atomized universe which is devoid of ontological meaning or communal belonging. His voice is one of a solitary man at it by himself in this meaningless universe, without the support of community, tradition, or God.
His style of singing is aloof from the real, apathetic and chilling. It lacks the guts and depth, the human richness and warmth of the vocalists that preceded him in the decades before.
He sings of partying detached from joy, love detached from unity, sex detached from nature, and heartbreak detached from any expectation of healing.
His brand of R&B is cool and vapid, the perfect soundtrack for a generation led by the sterile musings of TikTokers and IG influencers.