The Intellectualization of foolishness: An open letter to Toure

Jan 24, 2012 @ 9:52 am | By TheFeministGriote | 15 Comments

Guest Post: By @wearejanedoe

The following is a response to “Who Killed It: The Weeknd’s ‘Initiation’ Weaves a Wicked Web,” an article that was recently written by Touré and published by Complex magazine on their website.

“A song pulsing with evil.” These words are a precise and logical description of the song “Initiation” by The Weeknd, from his recent album/mixtape, Echoes of Silence. And yet, the opening line of Touré’s article, while blatant and honest, did not prepare me for the gravity of what the song has to offer. I wouldn’t have thought that The Weeknd would have penned a song that is basically an outline of how he planned and executed the date rape and gang rape of a woman. Because while Touré’s opening line is accurate, “‘Initiation’ is a song pulsing with evil;” more explicitly “Initiation” is an ode to or perhaps even an anthem for date rape.

 “The Weeknd’s aggressive vocal attack—the way he barrels through the verses, intense and relentless, barely stopping for breath, rhyming as much as singing—adds to the creepiness as it signals his devilishly aggressive assault on this girl, plying her with substances, guiding her past her limits, taking her over.” –Toure

Let us begin with the order of events in the song “Initiation.”

  • The Weeknd and a woman are drinking and smoking in a public place. Based on the lyrics “thick smoke and choking,” I will assume the substance being smoked is marijuana.
  • The woman has consumed a large amount of drugs and alcohol and becomes disoriented. The Weeknd states that her heart rate has slowed and she has been crying. While in her disoriented state she is told that she will be taken to The Weeknd’s home to “continue the party.”
  • The Weeknd addresses his friends, acknowledging that they are “high on Shakespeare lines (cocaine)” and then tells them that they do not have to wait in line because there is enough to pass around. “Enough” at this point could be one of two things, either (1) additional drugs or (2) the woman who is on her way to The Weeknd’s house.
  • The Weeknd then addresses the woman again, who at this point is in his home, telling her that in order to have his heart she must first past the test of “meeting with his boys.” Or to put plainly, she must have sex with his friends in order to receive his love.
  • The Weeknd explains that he has been bingeing for a week. On the night in question he has reached his peak high, begun to come down from his high and is gearing up for “another round.” It is unclear whether “another round” is more drugs, or more of the woman.
  • While gearing up for “another round” The Weeknd tells the woman that he is not to blame for her nightmares that will surely ensue from this experience.
  • The woman is told by The Weeknd that if she is too high that she can “meet his boys” to “make it right” by “riding it out. (have sex with his friends until she comes down from her drug induced high)”
  • The assault begins. The woman is taken into the fold of The Weeknd and his friends.
  • It is revealed that the woman has friends that have come to The Weeknd’s home along with her. Her female friends begin “screaming” because The Weeknd is “creeping out.” The Weeknd has decided that they are to be kept out of the room if “they are not down (do not wish to join the assault).” 
  • Post-interruption, The Weeknd offers more marijuana and cognac to the woman.
  • Finally, The Weekend concludes the account with “Just one night, trying to f*** and leave you out.”

So, those are the order of events. What seems like ‘prolific writing’ and ‘deft story telling’ to Touré, to me reads as a police report; imagine replacing the phrase “the woman” with “the victim.”  In this article he calls The Weekend a great writer with beautiful and forceful visuals. I think it is best that Touré’s accolades and Pulitzer Prize nominations cease. If instead of the story being told about a detail-less woman; what if she were Jane Doe? Or more simply put, what if she were real? This is a radical concept for many of the people who have listened to this song and will listen in future; people who have already been desensitized to graphic violence in general and violence against women in particular.

The writing, recording, and general acceptance of this song, along with Touré’s adoring article is telling of the willingness to dismiss violence against the female mind, body and spirit. Yes, Touré’s article pays attention to what is happening in the song, but no, it does not go the extra mile and speak to the damage that is being made to seem as “another day out with the boys.” And because of that, Touré’s article adds insult to The Weeknd’s injurious song.

This song at its very core is a frightening, detailed agenda of a pre-meditated, life-changing crime that will have long-standing emotional ramifications for women who have suffered and will suffer the same fate. And, The Weeknd and his kind are to blame for the future nightmares of these women. More outrageous than the deluge of admiration from Touré’s article towards the supposed lyricism and cleverness for “Initiation,” is the last paragraph of the article.

 “Some things that must be said. I don’t condone gang rape. No one should ever do that. It’s horrible. This is a song. No actual women were hurt in the making of this song as far as I know. Art made from the point of view of villains and monsters is compelling. Loving it does not equal condoning horrific behavior. Also: The Weeknd is at the start of what should be an extraordinary career.” –Toure

Is that it? No, no one should ever commit gang rape. And no, it is not “just a song.” That is an over-simplifying, dismissive attitude that absolves both Touré and the song that he “loves” of its irresponsible message and down-plays gang rape, the act that he does not condone. It is impossible to accept the song for its “brilliance” and divorce oneself from the song’s rape premise, and it is a problem to think that one can praise a song while simultaneously denouncing the message. You have to know that if you are saluting the song, then you okay the message, even if you do not practice what the song is preaching. There is no need to attempt to intellectualize foolishness. And on another note, how would Touré know if any woman was hurt in the forming of The Weeknd’s philosophy? And furthermore, was that an ill-fated attempt at humor? After devoting 1,082 words toward kudos for “Initiation,” 60 words added for political correctness is just not enough.

-Jane Doe

Weigh in below…

Categories: Mind Over Chatter

15 Responses to “ The Intellectualization of foolishness: An open letter to Toure ”

  1. this is why everyone hates feminists

  2. Hilarious! I love it!

    Great job babe

  3. @RadiancePoetry | January 24, 2012 9:08 pm

    Brilliant and well stated. I was nauseous, reading Toure’s review. There’s nothing brilliant about its brutality. I know Toure has a two year old daughter named Fairuz (sp)who’s been his twitter avi. How would he feel if the weeknd wrote a song about her sexual exploitation? Would he dismiss it as just a song? I doubt it. Most men don’t live with fear, threat or trauma of sexual violence. They can take it as entertainment. That sh*t is not funny. I dare he re-read the song as “Fariruz’s Initiation.” Still brilliant, Toure?

  4. I don’t think Touré’s article was a dismissal of violence against women. Rather, he marveled at how Abel Tesfaye’s songwriting is so potent that its ability to bring the listener into a world so decadent, so horrifying, is uncanny.

    Throughout Touré’s piece, he makes mention that The Weeknd is playing the role of a monster. His sycophantic crew is certainly no better. Nowhere does Touré condone their actions. But, and this is the important thing, Touré does not lose sight that, yes, this is SIMPLY A SONG.

    Plenty of songs—and novels, and movies, and other works of art—have “irresponsible messages” that could easily be construed as offensive, misogynist, racist, vulgar, gratuitously violent, or what have you. But the visceral response “Initiation” (and, by proxy, Touré’s article) seems to have provoked only validates Touré’s point: The Weeknd is a brilliant songwriter, and this track is proof of that.

  5. damn calm down everyone its a song… feminists are annoying.. shut the fuck up and make some sandwiches woop woop

  6. First off, you interpreted the lyrics wrong. When he’s talking about another round he says nothing about not to be blamed for her nightmares. “don’t blame me when you’re grinding up your teeth and its fucking hard to sleep” is a reference to an ecstacy comedown.

    I don’t understand how this falls under a gang-rape. The women had been drinking, smoking and doing oxycodiene and ecstacy all day and has sex with a group of men. She’s conscious enough to “ride it out”. If the blame is that he got her high and took advantage, it’s utter BS. Drugs she consumed on her own free will cant be to blame. If that’s the case then the weeknd is guilt free simply because he’s been binging for a week straight. Who knows if she would have said no sober, women degrade themselves sexually worse then this without drugs in their system.

  7. Your interpretation of his song is 100% fantasy, which is why your narration of the events is mostly your writing and very few lines from the actual song. You would have failed at even the most rudimentary aspects of literary analysis if you were in school. MOST IMPORTANTLY, (and revealingly), the alleged part of the song you are most worked contains no line from the actual song at all: “The assault begins. The woman is taken into the fold of The Weeknd and his friends.” You know why??? Cuz this is a song about consensual relationships. There is NO evidence, not a single line, about this being forced. In fact, he implies multiple times that it’s up to her: “If they’re not down, better keep em out.” In other words, if they’re not into it, they can’t hang. Fair enough. It’s her choice though. You should be ashamed of yourself. Falsely accusing someone of glorifying sexual assault when it’s not even close to the truth is disdgusting. You owe an apology to The Weeknd and your credibility (not to mention all of your English teachers after your Freshmen year of High School).

  8. *most worked-up about

  9. Really great info!

  10. This is an interesting perspective on this song though not one that I necessarily agree with. I am curious to know which points in the song you felt pointed to the encounter being non-consensual. The woman is depicted as partaking in drugs and alcohol but so is the singer as well as his companions. It also doesn’t seem to be stated that she was forced to take any of these substances. Also when asking her to meet his companions (or take more drugs, the song is perhaps more ambiguous than it is described here) he says “there’s just one thing that I need from you” which reads more as a request than a demand. Again this is just my own opinion but I do feel like some of this song is being misinterpreted here.

  11. A lot of double standards in this article. Also a lot of misinterpretation of the song (the lines of con sensuality are significantly blurred, yes, but the feeling is that overall the girl knows exactly what she’s doing), and also of its purpose. It isn’t a glorification. You’re supposed to be simultaneously drawn into his world with horrified fascination while at the same time being repelled by what’s going on. Have you really never read or seen another work with a “protagonist” (and I use the term lightly) such as this before? It’s like watching a horror film from the villain’s perspective.

    Also, it’s worthy to note what he says elsewhere in the album about his relationships with women. The whole trilogy is an arc and though he starts out as the dominant, abusive one, by the end of the album he basically admits he’s lost control of the situation and “needs” this woman in his life as she leaves him. It’s a very complex power play, he isn’t the 100% misogynist monster throughout. I think a more in depth reading of this art is required, and I think it will be in time.

    Tbh if anything this is more of an attack on the article itself, anyway.

  12. First off, Toure dug his own grave by not listening to the lyrics carefully. Note that one line says: “heart rate’s low, put that rum down you don’t wanna die tonight.” This refers to the fact that sizzurp lower’s your heart rate substantially and drinking it with alcohol can stop it altogether just like any other medication that makes you drowsy. Also, its a pretext to snort cocaine which famously has the opposite affect. Now, what kind of rapist would even care, especially since alcohol is a more potent date rape drug than sizzurp? And Abel is a lyrical genius. I can only imagine the havoc he’d create as a rapper. The song is one huge, ambiguous metaphor for drug abuse. The narrator of this story personifies XO (a northern term for sizzurp/lean, thus “XO til we overdose”). XO is our tragic heroine’s “gateway drug”, thus the title “initiation”, and with each transition in the song, the substances get progressively more serious. “Boys” refers to the rest of XO’s “crew” i.e. the other drugs. This interpretation also makes sense of the last verse where he mentions the chilly attitudes of her friends and ex towards him. He’s telling her to get rid of her friends and forget her ex which sounds a lot like what hard drug abuse can do to a person’s social life. On the other hand, it also breaks the “date/gang rape” interpretation because most date rapists will never meet a girl’s ex/S.O. At the most direct level, obviously somebody she’s around in the long term who her friends don’t particularly agree with. The song is really a bragging piece that doesn’t connect as much to the rest of the album but it serves to demonstrate Abel’s songwriting ability. It’s done in Hip-hop all the time.

  13. Song or not The Weeknd offer us some dark shit. Obviously you and I can listen to whatever we like, I just don’t see what if anything of value comes from listening to this music. Sure I like the production, but the darkness and nihilism of the music causes me just a little unease. If it is just art that is not to let the artist off the hook, this art is representative of society going to hell in a handbasket, perhaps the moral decadence of our times, and just offers us hopelessness. The song is just a bunch of assholes getting high and taking advantage of a woman, and because it ‘sounds cool’ or new, everyone thinks it is amazing. This is garbage.

  14. I originally learned abt the artist, the weeknd, from a friend who knows how much I admire and love Michael Jackson. She let me listen to his remake of dirty Diana and then went on to play his other work (b4 he was even known, on iTunes, or mainstream). From jump, she felt the need to explain to me or in my opinion, make excuses for the singers disgusting-drug laced, super sexual, noncommittal, no love or need for it lyrics. While I am an extreme lover of verging art and artists, something from the beginning gave me a haunting, sick feeling in my gut. How could this beautiful voice come from such an empty, pleasure-loving with no consequences individual? I came to a point where just hearing his voice felt like an evil presence somehow entered the room and the mind when the music would start. I cannot listen to him. He explores, justifies, and okays everything I pray and plead to keep my daughter from in this world. As you stated though, the world has been so numbed- down and apathetic to horrific behavior. In my personal opinion, anyone who feeds their mind with this garbage is bound to eventually think its okay. Oh and for all those that say its just a song. Haha. Laughable. If a song was just a song, a tv show was just entertainment, and a commercial was just advertising…then why do corporations spend millions of dollars on marketers who are trained specifically to manipulate you into thinking that exact, simple logic. Wake up sheep! This is a reprobate mind and spirit and now the norm. As a victim of sexual assault while intoxicated, whether this song is abt that or not, having sex with any individual (unless your spouse) can be automatically assumed non-consensual.

    I don’t wish harm on any person, but long career? Um, I think not because the HIV and drug overdose will kill him first.

    And that’s my two cents (not coming from a feminist)

  15. cool story ladies back to the kitchen pls

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