House of Balloons is The Weeknd's debut mixtape that was released as a free download on March 21, 2011 by XO.
- High For This 4:09
- What You Need 3:26
- House Of Balloons / Glass Table Girls 6:47
- The Morning 5:14
- Wicked Games 5:25
- The Party & The After Party 7:40
- Coming Down 4:55
- Loft Music 6:03
- The Knowing 5:57
The album's eclectic music uses samples of songs by Beach House and Aaliyah's 2001 song "Rock the Boat".
The title track heavily samples Siouxsie and the Banshees' 1980 single "Happy House". The track "The Knowing" samples "Cherry-Coloured Funk" by Cocteau Twins.
Joe Colly of Pitchfork Media observes "weird, morning-after tales of lust, hurt, and over-indulgence" complemented by "lush, downcast music" on the album, and compares its "specific nocturnal quality" to that of The xx's 2009 self-titled debut.
Pitchfork Media's Eric Grandy writes that the title track has The Weeknd "emoting in an androgynous falsetto one minute, muttering unbelievable curses the next".
Paul Lewster of The Guardian views that, although more than half of the mixtape features samples, only the title track makes it "evident."
"House of Balloons" received widespread acclaim from critics, and is considered by many to be one of the most influential R&B releases in recent years.
Preceded by a string of low-profile buzz single releases throughout 2010, the mixtape attracted significant interest due to the then-anonymous identity of the individual behind The Weeknd.
Metacritic gave the mixtape a rating of 87, indicating "universal acclaim".
Sean Fennessey of The Village Voice was impressed by the mixtape, calling it "patient, often gorgeous, and consistently louche... with the sort of blown-out underbelly and echo-laden crooning that has already made Drake's less-than-a-year-old Thank Me Later such an influential guidepost."
Maegan McGregor of Exclaim! stated that House of Balloons "easily stands as one of the year's best debuts so far, hipster, top 40 or otherwise."
Sputnikmusic's Tyler Fisher said that "despite being a free album, House of Balloons feels like a true album, a true labor of love."
Tom Ewing of The Guardian felt that while The Weeknd's vocals and lyrics on House of Balloons "aren't especially strong by R&B standards," much of the album's attention was attracted by its strong command of mood."
In December 2011, Metacritic determined that House of Balloons was the third best-reviewed project of the year.
Additionally, the mixtape was featured on several music critics' and publications' end-of-year albums lists.
Complex called it the "best album of 2011;" Stereogum ranked it number 5; The Guardian ranked it number 8; the A.V. Club ranked it number 6; SPIN ranked it (as well as Thursday) number 13 and Pitchfork ranked it number 10.
As a whole, "House of Balloons" was the seventh most frequently mentioned album in music publications' year-end top ten lists. The mixtape was named as one of the longlisted of nominees for the 2011's Polaris Music Prize.
The mixtape's title track, "House of Balloons" was placed on Pitchfork's list of top 100 songs of 2011 at number 57, while "The Morning" was number 15.