The Weeknd, the stage name for Abel Tesfaye, is a Canadian singer-songwriter and producer.
The Scarborough, Toronto-born singer, songwriter, and producer doesn't say much outside of his lyrics or personal messages through his social networking sites. Ever since appearing on the scene in late 2010, he's been shrouded in mystery, cultivating a mystique that baffles our gossip-obsessed pop culture. With that said, the 26-year-old alternative R&B phenomenon is an enigma in more ways than one.
For him, it's not about becoming famous. It's not about becoming rich. It's not about pleasing anyone. It's about being honest, staying true to his art, and diving headfirst into the deep end. History's most impactful artists from Van Gogh and Charles Bukowski to Miles Davis and John Lennon faced both the abyss and the heavens. They knew about sex, drugs, pain, joy, and love, and they weren't afraid to talk about them openly.
On his three-disc debut for XO/Republic Records, Trilogy, The Weeknd is an open book, revealing
everything and nothing at the same time. There are moments of ecstatic electronic bliss like the irresistible "High for This", and then there's the propulsive poetic paranoia of "House of Balloons", which twists a sample Siouxsie and the Banshees' Happy House into a frenetic danceable coup. With an inimitable and divine voice, he sings of hazy nights that turned into hazier mornings and tumultuous trysts that spiraled into eternal longing. However, you can take whatever you want from it. After all, it is art.
His trip officially began with the release of the nine-song free album House of Balloons in March 2011. It was the first in a series of three-including Thursday and Echoes of Silence-and it immediately set the blog-o-sphere ablaze. Soon after the initial instalment impacted the net, Drake quoted lyrics from the effort on Twitter and linked to the music, becoming the first of many A-list artists to champion it. The two quickly forged a tight friendship and fertile artistic partnership that extended to Drake's team.
As they grew closer, the superstar MC even enlisted his talents for several tracks on the chart-topping, platinum-selling and Grammy Award winning album Take Care. Most notably, The Weeknd co-wrote, co-produced, and performed on "Crew Love", a bona fide hit single from the record. Further collaborating, Drake dropped a transfixing verse on "The Zone" from Thursday.
The artist hit the road for his first sold out headline tour that summer, and the world began to embrace him with open arms from underground bloggers to taste-making music supervisors. "High for This" even served as the soundtrack to the trailer for the final season of HBO's long-running series, Entourage, a symbol of his infiltration into the zeitgeist.
Meanwhile, critics and gatekeepers also fell under his spell. Complex dubbed House of Balloons the "best album of 2011", and Pitchfork honored it as "Best New Music". It conquered year-end lists, including Stereogum, The A.V. Club, The Guardian (UK), and Spin. MTV, BET, Rolling Stone, XXL, and others exalted it with equally high praise, while The Source called him the "Songbird of his generation".
In the midst of everything, other marquee artists began to personally seek out his unique talent, and that was the highest compliment. He created the first formal remix for FLORENCE + THE MACHINE's "Shake It Out", and he put his stamp on LADY GAGA's "Marry the Night", yielding a seductive and sensual take on the single for Born This Way: The Remixes. The Weeknd also personally cooked up "Remember You" the second single for WIZ KHALIFA's anxiously awaited sophomore effort, O.N.I.F.C.
In the summer of 2012, a groundbreaking strategic alliance between XO, creative collective visionary behind The Weeknd and Republic Records was established. Under this banner, Trilogy compiled House of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes of Silence in one expansive collection, properly mixed, mastered, and
finished for the very first time. The 27 original tracks remain, but there's also a myriad of new material as well to please both the initiated and uninitiated alike. The doorway officially opens into his world with this effort.
The first single "Wicked Games" bleeds brilliantly with a stark and vivid admission that's utterly enthralling. Keyboards resound through airy production as the vocals exude a dark sensuality. The singer admits, "I love to watch you dance, take you down another level and get you dancing with the devil", before the unforgettable, unbridled hook, "Let me motherfucking love you".
You're going to motherfucking love him. Live audiences continue to as well. In addition to surprise appearances on DRAKE's Club Paradise tour and a stint supporting FLORENCE + THE MACHINE, he dazzled crowds at the biggest festivals in the world including Coachella, Primavera Sound Festival, and the Wireless Festival in London and on a seemingly endless run of sold out headline gigs. The next chapter has begun though.
Coming together, Republic Records and the Canadian XO are paving the way for a revolution. Already, XO has progressed from an intimate Toronto operation into an international player. Everything stems from the music though, and it always will. THE WEEKND addressed fans in an open letter online, "You will continue to get what you fell in love with, and I will continue to give you what you ask for. No matter what an artist's ego clouds them to believe, you are the reason why I have been able to continue to do what I love to do and that is to entertain you." He released his second album, "Kiss Land", on September 10, 2013.
(2) Allegedly "shrouded in mystery" despite a social media presence (with accompanying photos) on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Soundcloud, and YouTube, as well as major support from fellow Torontonian Drake, alternative R&B act the Weeknd – a solo outlet for vocalist Abel Tesfaye – surfaced in March 2011 with House of Balloons. A nine-track, 50-minute mixtape made available for free download on the Weeknd website, House of Balloons was based in morose ballads filled with drug references and sexual longing. Sonically, there were clear traces of radio-friendly contemporary R&B à la Trey Songz, Jeremih, the-Dream, and Drake, while also appealing to listeners who favored left-of-center, production-over-songcraft exponents like Spacek and Sa-Ra. The mixtape, made by Tesfaye in collaboration with producers Doc McKinney and Illangelo, among others, garnered widespread coverage – most of which was gushingly positive – within days of its March 21 release. A second mixtape, Thursday (August 19), preceded several appearances on Drake's album Take Care. Echoes of Silence (December 21), the third Weeknd mixtape, followed just before the end of the year. The following June, "Crew Love," off Take Care, reached the Top Ten of Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart. A few months later, he was featured on another charting single, Wiz Khalifa's "Remember You."
After Tesfaye signed with Universal Republic, the three Weeknd mixtapes were remastered and bundled with three new songs for Trilogy, issued in November 2012. The set debuted at number four on the Billboard 200 chart. The following April, Tesfaye won Juno Awards in the categories of Breakthrough Artist of the Year and R&B/Soul Recording of the Year. Trilogy was certified platinum by the RIAA the next month. Kiss Land, much darker in tone than its title implied, followed in September 2013 and debuted at number two. Out of its several singles, only "Live For," featuring Drake, touched the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart. Tesfaye had much more success with a series of non-album singles that followed. "Often," released in 2014, was a Top Ten R&B/Hip-Hop hit. He was featured on Ariana Grande's "Love Me Harder," which reached the Top Ten of the Hot 100 and went platinum in the U.S. "Earned It," featured in Fifty Shades of Grey, repeated the same feats. In 2015, Tesfaye issued "The Hills," a booming ballad, and "Can't Feel My Face," a disco-funk throwback, as the first two singles from Chapter III. The former cracked the Hot 100 Top 20, while the latter reached the chart's Top 10. ~ Andy Kellman