Let’s face it, The Weeknd used to be pretty uninventive when it came to making music videos. Say what you will about the darkly intriguing music of his 2011 mixtape trilogy, but when adapted to visual form, every story seemed the same. Abel Tesfaye seemed to live his life entirely inside dimly-lit hotel rooms surrounded by dead-eyed models which, regardless of accuracy or desirability, wasn’t that interesting of a concept the first time around, let alone the fifth or sixth.
But just as Tesfaye has leapt headfirst into pop stardom-- flopping on his debut album, Kiss Land, but then sending 4/7ths of the tracks on its follow-up into the Hot 100-- so have his videos into the realm of high art. His run of visuals for tracks from November’s Starboy has been stunning. From the title track’s crime noir vibe, to the shaky-cam chaos of “False Alarm,” to the retro sci-fi sheen of “I Feel it Coming,” Tesfaye and his video department continue to top themselves with wildly varied storylines and genre play. Their latest might be their most ambitious yet.
The “Secrets” video is set inside of what looks to be a very well-designed European hotel, composed of symmetrical stairways, curved glass elevators, and Le Corbusier-esque cement colonnades. This setting, combined with expert camera work, produces porn of an entirely different sort than The Weeknd’s early NSFW videos: it’s eye candy for cinephiles and people who follow the One Perfect Shot Twitter account. Equal parts impenetrable Euro art house and The Shining, the Pedro Martin-Calero-directed “Secrets” video is the weirdest, most breathtaking interpretation of what’s essentially hyper-catchy ‘80s pastiche.
Throughout Starboy’s videos, there’s been a recurring image of a geometric crucifix, which appears here as a monolithic piece of floating cement. We still have yet to figure out the significance of the symbol, but maybe we’re being led towards an answer with each ensuing video. Either way, it adds to the mythos much more than an umpteenth implied orgy in Tesfaye’s penthouse suite.