Carter’s Record Reviews: The Weeknd’s ‘House of Balloons’: 10 Years Later


Photo used with permission from Wikimedia Commons

The Weeknd performs live. His debut mixtape, entitled ‘House of Balloons,’ has recently been rereleased as the original form of the album for its 10th anniversary.

It has been a decade since Canadian pop and R&B phenom The Weeknd began his illustrious musical career with his debut mixtape, ‘House of Balloons.’.The mixtape was initially released on Mar. 21, 2011. For the 10th anniversary of House of Balloons, the original version of the mixtape was reissued. It features nine tracks and a 49-minute runtime.

The Weeknd’s sound on House of Balloons draws a stark contrast to the synth pop and disco feel of his recent releases. The tones and instrumentation on this mixtape are often abrasive and other times more low key, which displays his early willingness to experiment.

For instance, the opening track ‘High for This’ starts off faint, but is intertwined with buzzing and razor sharp synthesizers that hit the listener with a brick wall of intensity. Moreover, the Weeknd’s engaging vocal presence in the track fits nicely with this instrumentation, making for a cathartic track that is sure to leave the listener in awe.

To contrast, ‘What You Need’ serves as a moment of calm after the storm, with more mellow synthesizers and a more quieted vocal presence. This track may be relaxing, however it packs a huge punch with its trance-inducing sound. ‘House of Balloons / Glass Table Girls’ picks up the pace with an excitable intro, which eventually fades away into a more eerie soundscape.

The lyrics up to this point have lovesick tendencies, and even some wistfulness on ‘High for This.’ Moreover, ‘The Morning’ reflects on pursuing fame. This track involves a clean guitar loop, which adds to its soulful R&B feel. ‘The Party and The After Party’ continues the trend of clean guitar loops, with this track further reinforcing the lovesick motifs.

To contrast, the distorted loops on ‘Wicked Games’ gives the song a bluesy feel, as he reveals the scars he has from romantic relationships in a deeply emotional ballad. Although the listener’s sense of the heartbreak endured throughout the songs can feel quite repetitive, each song seems to offer a new chapter of insight into the seemingly broken relationships that he has experienced.

This emotional rollercoaster of music comes to a final conclusion with ‘The Knowing’, with vivacious vocal choruses, reverb-filled vocals and instrumentals, as well as an emphatic distorted outro that brings the listener back to reality.

Although the songs on this record occasionally have sections that meander, these are signs of the growing pains that artists sometimes have early on. In the end, the album as a whole is still worth a listen, and should not be discounted by those who wish to seek out his music.