Deep Dive to The Weeknd's Cinematic Discography Part 3: Beauty Behind the Madness

From underground to the chaos of stardom and the sins of Los Angeles.

''Beauty Behind the Madness" marks an important turning point in Abel's career, with unfriendly radio hits like "Often" and "The Hills" still somehow making it to the radio and taking him from underground to global superstardom. It not only helped him reach a much wider audience and significantly expand his fan base, but it also solidified his reputation as an essential figure in the music industry. Integrating all of the elements that made "Trilogy" the cult album that is in his career, but also focusing on the theme of the duality of setting, exactly like ''Kiss Land'', it could be said that he is still in tune with his ''underground'' works. The Weeknd, just like Kiss Land, roots ''Beauty Behind the Madness'' with a strong sense of location, and this time Los Angeles is used as the setting" Similar to the two previous albums, the overall atmosphere of the album is characterized by sensuality and mystery and the themes are still the same: love, lust, addiction, and personal struggles. Additionally, the visuals for ''Beauty Behind the Madness'' are a black-and-white raw aesthetic, which is practically a part of the artist's identity at this point. Abel's face seems as if it has been torn apart and patched back together on the album cover, which could suggest that he was attempting to make peace with his past self while at the same time creating who he is currently and who he could become in the future. 

This album differs from others in that it displays another stage of The Weeknd's persona. Abel's sultry and sinister vocals have served as the centerpiece of his music, so it has always had a sensuous and intriguing aspect. However, he has begun to play around with his sound by making it more pop-oriented. Even though the album still has tracks like "The Hills," which have a darker, more menacing ambiance, straight-out-of-Kiss Land, "Can't Feel My Face" truly has the mainstream sound with its upbeat fun atmosphere. Despite receiving criticism from his fans for embracing a more mainstream sound at the time, I think he kept his distinct musical style on the album, so he managed to show his capacity to create music that was both emotionally satisfying and commercially viable. As in previous albums, he never fails to welcome listeners to his world of intricate emotions, passion, and introspection and this time he showed that he could both be an international superstar and his own unique persona. His ability to create an album that has a cinematic quality and creates an epic and majestic depth to the whole ambiance of the album is still evident in ''Beauty Behind the Madness''.

Just like in ''Trilogy'' and ''Kiss Land'' Abel blurs the lines between the realms of music and cinema in this album too. The album's visuals have a cinematic influence that makes it just as visually appealing and carefully designed as the two previous albums. The album's cinematic inspirations have undoubtedly surpassed the listeners' expectations once again by enhancing its emotional depth, atmospheric elements, and storytelling aspects. Along with photos of himself in Los Angeles, the images that he used to promote his record additionally featured works that were inspired by horror and psychological thriller movies. The Weeknd's colleague on this record, artist Kalen Hollomon, has spoken about taking inspiration from cinematic masterpieces like Eyes Wide Shut and classic Italian thrillers. Saturday Night Fever, even though it is not set in Los Angeles but still zeroes in on the chaos lurking beneath the city life, is the key cinematic influence on the album. The main character Tony Manero, a young Italian-American man, spends his weekends dancing at a local discothèque 2001 Odyssey. The colors of the "Can't Feel My Face" video are identical to the ones in the iconic visuals from Saturday Night Fever. While the film is perhaps best known for popularizing disco as well as other groovy elements, Saturday Night Fever features sexual violence that is addressed in the music videos of tracks like "In the Night."  

Also potentially the other reference on ''Beauty Behind the Madness'' is the track ''The Hills'' as it is considered to be a reference to Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes. While Craven's picture centers on a family escaping barbarians in the desert, The Weeknd's hills are reminiscent of Beverly and Hollywood, yet they serve as the backdrop for several identical horrors. David Lynch's influence could be felt throughout the artist's discography. This time around, the Hollywood cult classic Mulholland Drive had an important influence. It tells the story of Betty, an aspiring actress who recently moved to Los Angeles from a tiny town, and of a lady with amnesia who tries to run away from her life in the big city. The female protagonists dress up to take on completely different identities and dream together throughout the film until they are incapable of distinguishing between their real identities, their surroundings, or their actions. In the music video of ''The Hills'' the Weeknd escapes from a car wreck with two women and there is a car crash in the film as well.

Visuals in Beauty Behind the Madness are influenced by directors other than Lynch and Craven. For example, David Fincher, the director of Se7en, Zodiac, and Fight Club, creates pictures that take place in a world populated with murders and deranged people. The same crazy individuals appear regularly in David Cronenberg's films.