Hot 100 Review: Blinding Light by The Weeknd

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Heartless by The Weeknd was my first ever Hot 100 Review. At the time Blinding Lights just released and wasn’t on the chart, but listened and liked it vastly more. I still do.

Blinding Lights has an amazing synth-wave sound. It really does feel like what driving down Las Vegas feels like. The keyboard and after effects really transport you immediately into the narrators mindset of being somewhere else. It is also very throwback to the 80s. I feel some real “I Ran” by Flock of Seagulls vibes in the beat. Maybe content and theme. In the meantime it is time to see why The Weeknd is getting blinding lights.

The song begins with the narrator saying how he has been trying to call someone he loves because he’s been alone for so long and hoping they could how him love. The narrator also mentions going through a love withdrawal so the other person doesn’t have to do much. This first verse really puts us in the narrator’s head. It makes him sound very pitiful, but also why he might not be a great person.

In the pre-chorus he mentions how he is in Sin City and that even though no one can judge him it is still cold and empty because he cannot see clearly when they are gone. This sets up how he cannot see because he is blinded by the lights of Sin City, and cannot sleep until he feels safe with them. He is drowning in the night and can only trust them.

Being blinded by the Vegas lights is a neat idea. All the glitz, glamor, and partying clouds his judgment. I do not think “falling in the night,” works as well. It is too generic. Maybe if he went further with the light idea. Like he is being taken over or enveloped by them might help sell the song even better. It’s fine as is, but could be better.

In the second, shorter verse, the narrator says that he is running out of time because the sun is coming up so he has to book it to them. He specifically means hitting overdrive. I only specify because Genius says it is a reference to him breaking the speed limit a lot. Sure.

From there he goes back to the pre-chorus and chorus to set up the bridge. In the bridge he says he is calling to say he doesn’t have the words to talk over the phone, but that he will not let the other person go. The song then goes the chorus and outro where he repeats that he is blinded by the lights and how he cannot sleep until he is with her.

I think the composition, beat, and The Weeknd’s voice really helps sell the song. I say this because as a narrative it is weaker than Heartless. It is a story of how The Weeknd is overwhelmed by the party and life of stardom and how he needs to go back to the person he loves because he needs help, and wants to be better. There is a moment of realization in the bridge, but not a whole lot of build up anywhere else. Just two verses. One of which is only a three quick lines. It is not something easily noticeable on initial listens, but going through line by line makes it apparent.

The video is trying to recapture the vibe of Heartless. It does not work as well. It opens with The Weeknd bloodied and one Twitter troll comment away from turning into the Joker. It jumps back to him getting in a car and speeding around Las Vegas (I guess that Genius fact was important after all). It then intercuts with him dancing on empty roads, bridges, and tunnels, and entering a club. In the club he meets a singer. She force pulls him to her. Throughout this the car engine has even adding additional energy and grit to the production. I don’t love it, but can see what it is going for. They then literally do the frog scene again only sans frog. He just hits a speed high and the song goes all wonky for a second. Back with the singer, guys come and beat The Weeknd up. He goes on the run to all the places we saw him dancing. The song ends and it leaves him mentally broken on an overpass.

I will be upfront and say I have zero clue what is being done thematically with all that. Blinding Light is about realizing the star lifestyle is overwhelming, he messed up and wants help because he loves this other person. Driving around Las Vegas makes sense because that is a setting detail in the song. But the proto-Joker dancing along with the narrative with the singer is strange. It might be saying that she can help, but the city (here represented by the goons who beat him up) is too harsh, it will constantly chase him, and drive him mad. That can all work, but does not really go with what the song’s ending.

The song is still incredibly enjoyable. That beat alone makes the song. The lyrics and imagery of being blinded by the lights works to get us in the narrator’s mindset. It could just use some more lyrical meat to carry it through to the end.

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