The Weeknd makes me existentially uncomfortable. Who could deny the craft behind I can’t Feel My Face. Hell, even the video is a bit of genius. I’m reading it as a commentary on the relationship between performer and audience – no one gets up to dance until they’ve set fire to the object of their attention. Seems an apt metaphor for what happens when you’re famous: no one dances until you’re melting down.
At the heart of just about everything I’ve ever heard of his music is this toxic ambivalence. Drugs and sex, loathing for the women who crawl into bed with him. And it isn’t misogyny (well… “I just fucked two bitches before I saw you” isn’t exactly feminist-friendly). Still, I don’t think the lyrics have anything to do with anything outside the relationship with himself. He’s in the public eye for consumption with his outside face on and hating anyone who takes the representation as the real thing (or doesn’t care enough to parse the difference). Not that he disrespects women, but that he can’t respect anyone who can’t see past the representative he sends into public.
Maybe that’s too gracious.
But the problem is that, unless seriously motivated to push beyond it, we’re all more or less enthralled by our own interior landscape. Our sexual expressions are too often masturbatory, the other body is just a prop to getting off. In our sexual culture, each party in the act is a fetish. Sex as a way to confirm your deep and tragic, an empty act that has to be empty to satisfy. Because if it offered a meaningful connection, if you approached the other body as an object of worship, an instance of the divine fire made corporal… If sex were an occasion for gratitude…
I mean, think about it. Here is someone who is willing to risk the vulnerability of nakedness, the ridiculous faces you make, the funny noises, the inarticulate – well, it should be ecstasy, but what is it when there is no compassion, worship, gratitude? And I don’t mean that the feminine ought to be worshiped exclusively, I mean that the bodies there and present are equally worthy of worship. Why wouldn’t you take the rare opportunity to worship? Do we blame the prevalence of porn for this? I mean, I’ve always been able to tell the difference between what happens on screen and what I experience.
In the lyrical narrative, sex isn’t about sharing joy with another person. Hell, it isn’t even about the other person. It’s a body for what that body says about me. I can pull a hot chick, but it doesn’t mean anything because my self-loathing means I must also loath her for letting me have her in this way. Sex has to be empty, because if it isn’t, if it offers you joy and connection, then what do you do with your nihilism? Evolution demands that we satisfy our urge to procreate (or at least go through the motions aided by birth control). Posturing demands that we reject the joy inherent in the act. It only counts if we hate ourselves and the act is an act of loathing.
Not to over-share, but the best sex I’ve ever had has had nothing to do with the big o. It wasn’t even important. It was good because I needed him, and he needed me, and in that moment of connection it wasn’t about my fetish for my interior narrative or his fetish for what I represented. It was an act of profane worship, a gesture of visceral connection and trust and necessity. The Weeknd is talented, there’s no doubt. And I love his music, even if it is shamefuck music. But I’m telling you, if I listen to him too much, I start feeling infected… I just don’t want to risk ruining my capacity for amazing, connected sex.