On “Can’t Feel My Face,” The Weeknd’s Abel Tesfaye jumps out of his comfort zone by delivering a song that is prime for the party and the after-party. His House of Balloons mixtape was one of 2011’s biggest revelations, a fully immersive collection of R&B with a fatalistic, grimy exterior, showing a darker side to contemporary R&B’s celebratory anthems.
The timing of his shift in sound could not be better timed. After “Earned It” became a surprising #1 pop radio single, “Can’t Feel My Face” pushes the R&B star’s sound closer to the center of pop music than ever before. On previous releases, we were left with the sense that Tesfaye could drown in his self-pity and isolation. “Face” finds Tesfaye embracing the narcotic effects of his lover, and soaring because of it. While the track differs from his previous recordings, both in tone and instrumentation, it’s still the same Abel Tesfaye at the core. “At least we’ll both me numb,” he sings throughout the song. So, maybe things haven’t changed too much. But, it’s a start.