To shape her strange world, songs about Balloon house taste the tastes of Cocteau Twins, Aaliyah and Siouxsie and the Banshees. The mixtape also includes two important samples from Baltimore indie rock band Beach House. “The Party & The After Party”, which accelerates their 2006 track “Master of None” in the background, is the most satisfying derivative.
Spanning nearly eight minutes, the song provides a luminous respite from the mixtape’s dreary soundscape, feeling like a misty stroll through a trippy circus. “Hold your glass, baby, don’t fall,” the Weeknd urges, drawing someone into his world. Laying out hip-hop clichés and coercive lyrics to “Master of None” in its first half, “The Party & The After Party” soon turns into something less dependent on the sample, a jam-session confessional on a crisp guitar and smashing drums. The Weeknd riffs like he’s waking up from an adventure drugged, mad and needy. Her sultry adlibs layers, an extension of her sex pleas, are smooth and expansive. He blows up “Master of None” into a new encompassing mix of rap, rock and pop.
Around the period Balloon house arrived, other hip-hop and R&B artists had brought rock and pop into their fold. Just a month before Weeknd’s debut came Frank Ocean’s first mixtape, Nostalgia, Ultra., where he remade songs from Coldplay, MGMT and Mr. Hudson. The year before, Kanye West had published My beautiful dark twisted fantasy, featuring Bon Iver’s folk darling Justin Vernon. Even Michael Jackson brought in Billy Idol hard rock guitarist Steve Stevens for “Dirty Diana,” which decades later would serve as the inspiration for much of Weeknd’s work. While Balloon house is new in his cohesion and his commitment to the sinister, The Weeknd was not the only one as a black artist to use “white” music to create something entirely his own. Its influence, however, is palpable.
For a while after Balloon house, many artists – d’Usher à Rihanna – found inspiration in the Weeknd. “Just listen to the radio. Every song is Balloon house 2.0 ”, he boasted Rolling stone in 2015. He was able to darken a wide range of music with his spectral impulses, in part thanks to the atmospheric sound of Beach House. Today, the Weeknds use their music on Balloon house feels like both fandom and salvage work. Modern rock and pop exist due to black innovation, but have been viewed as white genres in the broad imagination. The key to pop ubiquity has often been the fusion of sounds and cultures, and has historically often involved what looked like white performers borrowing – or stealing – from blacks. Sure Balloon house, like Michael Jackson and others before him, the Weeknd bent rock and pop to his will and made us reinvent their image.