On “Enemy”, the first new song from The Weeknd this year outside of the three bonus tracks on his recent mixtape compilation Trilogy, Abel Tesfaye sings: “Cause the least I deserve is no conversation / I been working all week / I’d rather be your enemy / Then any friend you think I would be.” It finds the anonymous, disturbingly non-autonomous women (or is it the same woman?) that Tesfaye stalks in his songs finally completing their subjugation to dumb accessory. It’s the inevitable culmination of a narrative arc that’s seen him slide from ecstasy to detachment via depravity as, conversely, he’s risen from the internet’s fringe to mainstream validation.
But where does he go from here? In becoming music’s embodiment of Steve McQueen’s Shame – the smirking sex addict desperate to expel his frozen feelings in bed yet painfully aware it’s but a momentary release from the emotional intimacy he cannot engage in – has he painted himself into a corner? As the desire gets cruder and the fantasies darker, the boredom kicks swifter when all you’re doing is chasing that first high.