Abel Tesfaye, better known as The Weeknd, is hardly the first artist to bring us insight into the dark side of fame, but he may be the first to enjoy it so much. While Drake waffles back and forth between loving the perks of the industry and hating the fake people he encounters, his protégé seems perfectly OK with, and perhaps prefers, the shady world of his new found fame. On Echoes of Silence, the third EP from his trilogy, Tesfaye continues to drag the listener further down the rabbit hole.

Everyone will inevitably buzz about the Michael Jackson cover (of “Dirty Diana,” called “D.D.” here); they should. The Weeknd puts his spooky spin on an already dark classic from the King of Pop and makes haunting magic. But not as many will realize the outstanding growth this EP shows. House of Balloons came out of nowhere, and while the critics sang its praises, it was raw. Thursday exaggerated the differences in sound found on the first EP in what seemed like an effort to feel out what worked and what did not. But Echoes of Silence has nailed down the formula and continues to hammer it home, beat after eerie, echoing beat. The level of focus and cohesion here is more likely to be found on an artist’s fifth full length album than on his third EP.

Early in an artist’s career, i.e. before a full length album is released, it is common to hear experiments in voice and sound. Listen to Jay-Z’s rapid fire delivery on early mixtapes or S.C.I.E.N.C.E. by Incubus and you will understand artists often sound radically different before they find a sound that sells. The amount of confidence and comfort The Weeknd has already found only adds strength to my prediction that he is going to be VERY, VERY big. You can download Echoes of Silence from his official website. (And of course, be sure to check him out on the obligatory social media: Facebook and Twitter.)

Echoes of Silence XO 2011