Disclaimer: links to songs in this article may contain videos with explicit material.
If you are anything like me, you heard the Weeknd's first top-five song “Earned it” and fell in love with his smooth falsetto voice and R&B beat. Next, I had heard “Can’t Feel My Face” and “The Hills” on the radio and decided to take to YouTube to find his non-mainstream songs. I found out that he had released songs on a YouTube channel under the name "The Weeknd," and his videos became popular. The year 2011 was a great year for the Weeknd's early fans because he released three nine-track mixtapes. The debut mixtape was House of Balloons, the next was Thursday and the last was Echoes of Silence. In 2012, he compiled those three mixtapes and made it his first album called Trilogy. His second album in 2013 was called Kiss Land, and it only boosted his popularity and success. In late August of this year, he released Beauty Behind the Madness, and it is incredible. Some of my favorite songs on the album are "Angel, "Acquainted," and his song "Dark Times" which features my other obsession, Ed Sheeran. It's a fangirl's dream come true.
The Weeknd's new status as a mainstream artist is awesome because he is exceptionally talented, not only because his voice and style are unmatched but also because he writes most, if not all, of his own music. Because of this, there are things about his music that give the songs an even deeper meaning. While I was scrolling through YouTube comments on the song "Often (NSFW)," I found out that the voice in the beginning of the provocative song has a sample of a Turkish song Nby ükhet Duru named “Ben Sana Vurgunum." It goes, "Seneler sürer her günüm.Yalnız gitmekten yorgunum," which roughly translates to "All my days look like years. I'm tired of going all alone." The Weeknd's song boasts about sexual prowess and drug use, but this sample reveals that a lifestyle of drug use and sexual promiscuity while appearing to be fun and cool, leaves a person feeling alone and empty.
A quick Google search gives you the Weeknd's real name, Abel Makkonen Tesfaye and a short background story. He is currently 25 years old and he is of Ethiopian descent but was born in Scarborough, Canada on February 16, 1990.
People often see the artist for the first time and make jokes about his hair. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, he addressed the topic. His hair may "look like SpongeBob's house," but honestly, I don't care, and he keeps it the way it is to be unique but not in a hipster way. He told Rolling Stone, "I want to be remembered as iconic and different, so I was like, 'F*ck it — I'm gonna let my hair just be what it wants.' I'll probably cut it if it starts interfering with my sight. I can kind of see it right now. But if I cut it, I'd look like everyone else. And that's just so boring to me."
Another interesting thing to note about the Weeknd is the depth of his music videos. There is a narrative linking "Can't Feel My Face" and "The Hills." Most of what I'm about to say is just speculation and has not been confirmed by the artist, but it's still a cool conversation piece. In "Can't Feel My Face," there is a figure who I think is supposed to resemble Satan. Throughout the video, the Weeknd is performing the song in what looks like a bar, and the crowd is uninterested with a few ladies as exceptions. The Satanic figure is watching the disastrous show and throws a lighter at the Weeknd and sets him on fire during the peak of the crescendo of the song. The artist begins to draw positive attention from the previously bored crowd, and the end of the video shows him being popular and accepted by the crowd. My speculation is that he is showing through the video that he feels people sell their soul to the Devil for fame, and it is only then that the general public notices and appreciates the new celebrity. In "The Hills," the Weeknd is in a nice car that has been flipped in the middle of an empty street. As the video progresses, the Weeknd's face gets more solemn, and he stumbles into an empty house and up the stairs. In another room, he finds the same Satan-like character from the "Can't Feel My Face" video, sitting in a room with a red light and holding an apple, and several women who are dressed provocatively. The color red in literature symbolizes anger, warning, hatred, and death, so the red light could be representing the view that fame leads to the "death" of the person's innocence. The apple that the Satan-like man is holding could symbolize temptation, which is enforced by the seductive women. The Weeknd's face in the video gives the idea that fame and losing who you are to be a celebrity may not be worth it. Again, this is only a theory and has not been confirmed.
The last fact I have for you is the reason the name "The Weeknd" is missing the "e." Apparently, there is already a Canadian band called the Weekend, and to be able to use the name without getting sued, Tesfaye decided to drop the "e."
The Weeknd only uses Twitter to communicate with the press, which only adds to his mysteriousness. In the rare Rolling Stone magazine interview I mentioned above, he says, "I already can't turn on the radio. I think I'm gonna drop one more album, one more powerful body of work, then take a little break — go to Tokyo or Ethiopia or some sh*t."
Even though that will be a sad time, I'm confident that his next "powerful body of work" will be outstanding, and I personally can't wait.