The Weeknd

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The Weeknd
FEQ July 2018 The Weeknd (44778856382) (cropped).jpg
Tesfaye performing at FEQ in July 2018
Born
Abel Makkonen Tesfaye

(1990-02-16) February 16, 1990 (age 31)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Occupation
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • record producer
Years active2009–present
AwardsFull list
Musical career
Also known asThe Noise, Kin Kane[1]
Genres
Instruments
  • Vocals
  • piano
Labels
Associated acts
Websitetheweeknd.com
Signature
The Weeknd signature.png

Abel Makkonen Tesfaye (born February 16, 1990), known professionally as the Weeknd, is a Canadian singer, songwriter, and record producer.[2] Noted for his distinctive singing voice with a soaring falsetto and its singular tremolo, Tesfaye is considered an influential figure in contemporary popular music.[3] He has received numerous accolades throughout his career, including three Grammy Awards, six American Music Awards, nineteen Billboard Music Awards, two MTV Video Music Awards, fifteen Juno Awards, and an Academy Award nomination.[4]

Born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, Tesfaye began his recording career in 2009 by anonymously releasing music on YouTube. Two years later, he co-founded the XO record label and released the critically acclaimed mixtapes House of Balloons, Thursday and Echoes of Silence. He quickly earned a following and recognition from several mainstream publications due to his dark style of contemporary R&B and the mystique surrounding his identity.[5] In 2012, Tesfaye signed with Republic Records and re-released the mixtapes in the compilation album Trilogy. His debut studio album Kiss Land was released in 2013. His critically acclaimed single "Earned It", from the soundtrack to the film Fifty Shades of Grey (2015), won the Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance and was nominated for Best Original Song at the 88th Academy Awards.[6]

Tesfaye gained major critical and commercial success with his second studio album Beauty Behind the Madness (2015). It topped the US Billboard 200 and was among the best-selling albums of that year. With the Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles "Can't Feel My Face" and "The Hills", Beauty Behind the Madness won the Grammy Award for Best Urban Contemporary Album and was nominated for Album of the Year.[7] Tesfaye's third studio album Starboy (2016) was a similar commercial success and included the number-one single of the same name. Starboy also won the Grammy Award for Best Urban Contemporary Album. His fourth studio album After Hours (2020) featured the worldwide chart record-setting single "Blinding Lights", and the number-one singles "Heartless" and "Save Your Tears".[8] As of April 1, 2020, After Hours is the most-streamed R&B album of all-time.[9]

Among the world's best-selling musical artists with over 75 million records sold,[10] Tesfaye is also one of the most-streamed artists on Spotify.[11] His single "Blinding Lights" was the most streamed song on Spotify in 2020.[12] He holds several Billboard chart records; which include being the first artist to simultaneously hold the top three spots on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart with "Can't Feel My Face", "Earned It", and "The Hills",[13] and for earning the longest-charting song on the Hot 100 of all-time with "Blinding Lights".[14][15] In 2020, Tesfaye was listed by Time Magazine as one of the world's most influential people.[16]

Early life

Abel Makkonen Tesfaye[a] was born on February 16, 1990, in Toronto, Ontario, to Ethiopian immigrants Samrawit Hailu[b] and Makkonen Tesfaye.[18][19][20] He is an only child, and was raised by his grandmother and mother in the district of Scarborough[20][21] after his parents separated.[22][23] While living with his grandmother, he learned Amharic, which he also spoke with his mother.[24] He attended services at the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.[19][25] He said of his father, "I saw him vaguely when I was six, and then again when I was 11 or 12, and he had a new family and kids. I don't even know where he lived — I'd see him for, like, a night. I'm sure he's a great guy. I never judged him. He wasn't abusive, he wasn't an alcoholic, he wasn't an asshole. He just wasn't there."[19]

Tesfaye has described his teenage years as being like the film "Kids without the AIDS." He stated he began smoking marijuana at age eleven, and later used ecstasy, oxycodone, Xanax, cocaine, psilocybin, and ketamine. He said that he often shoplifted to supplement his drug use.[20][26] He attended West Hill Collegiate Institute and Birchmount Park Collegiate Institute. In 2007, he dropped out of school and moved to Parkdale, Toronto.[27][28]

Career

2009–2011: Early beginnings

In August 2009, Tesfaye began anonymously releasing music on YouTube. The following year, he met Jeremy Rose, a producer who had an idea for a dark contemporary R&B musical project. After initially trying to pitch the idea to musician Curtis Santiago, Rose played one of his instrumentals for Tesfaye, who freestyle rapped over it, although Tesfaye's early work does not feature much rap. This led to the two collaborating on an album. Rose produced three songs – "What You Need", "Loft Music", and "The Morning" – and others that Tesfaye had sung on, which were ultimately scrapped. Rose let Tesfaye keep the tracks he had produced under the condition that Rose would be credited for them.[29] In December 2010, Tesfaye uploaded "What You Need", "Loft Music" and "The Morning" to YouTube under the username "xoxxxoooxo".[30][31] The songs drew some attention online, and were later included in a blog post from rapper Drake.[29][32] The songs subsequently received coverage from various media outlets, including Pitchfork and The New York Times.[33]

Before adopting the stage name the Weeknd, Tesfaye released music under two aliases; the Noise and Kin Kane.[19] His current stage name was chosen in tribute to when he, along with his best friend and now creative director La Mar Taylor, dropped out of high school at seventeen years old, took his mattress, and "left one weekend and never came home". However, Rose claims the name was his idea.[34][35] The letter E was excluded to avoid trademark problems with Canadian pop-rock band the Weekend.[36] In the beginning of his career, Tesfaye worked at American Apparel. Due to his anonymity, his co-workers listened to his music without knowing it was him.[37][38][39]

In 2011, Tesfaye met music executives Wassim "Sal" Slaiby and Amir "Cash" Esmailian, with whom, along with Taylor, he founded the XO record label.[40] On March 21, Tesfaye released his debut mixtape House of Balloons.[41][42][43] The mixtape included production from producers Illangelo and Doc McKinney, and included the tracks produced by Rose, although he did not receive production credits.[29] House of Balloons was met with critical acclaim.[44] It was named as one of ten shortlisted nominees for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize.[45] On August 18, Tesfaye released his second mixtape Thursday, which received generally positive reviews.[46] His third mixtape, Echoes of Silence, was released on December 21. It was met with critical acclaim and was a longlisted nominee for the 2012 Polaris Music Prize.[47][48]

In July 2011, Tesfaye embarked on a tour of Toronto, and held his first live performance at the Mod Club Theatre.[49] After the performance, Drake met with Tesfaye to discuss collaborations, which led to Tesfaye being the opening act for some of Drake's concerts and an appearance at his OVO Festival.[50] He also participated in concerts hosted by the Black Student Association at the University of Toronto.[39][51] Tesfaye contributed to four songs on Drake's second studio album Take Care, which was released on November 15, as a songwriter, producer and a featured artist on the album's seventh single "Crew Love".[52]

2012–2014: Trilogy and Kiss Land

Tesfaye performing at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in 2012

In April 2012, Tesfaye began his first international tour, which included performances at Coachella,[53] sold-out shows at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City, which were positively reviewed by Rolling Stone,[53][54] and various European festivals, including Primavera Sound in Spain and Portugal,[55] and the Wireless Festival in the United Kingdom.[56][57][58] In September, Tesfaye signed with Republic Records, and XO was assumed as a subsidiary label.[59]

On November 13, 2012, Tesfaye released Trilogy, a compilation album consisting of re-mixed and remastered versions of his 2011 mixtapes and three additional tracks.[60][61][62] The album officially credited Rose as a producer and writer on the three songs from House of Balloons for which he did not initially receive credit.[63] Trilogy debuted at number four on the U.S. Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 86,000 copies. It also debuted at number five on the Canadian Albums Chart, with similar sales.[64][65] The album was later certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and double-platinum by Music Canada.[66][67] It also earned Tesfaye a nomination for the Sound of 2013 poll award by BBC.[68]

Tesfaye performing at Massey Hall in October 2013

On May 17, 2013, Tesfaye released the title track to his debut studio album Kiss Land,[69] and announced the album's release date of September 10.[70] Upon release, the album debuted at number two on the U.S. Billboard 200, selling 96,000 copies,[71] and received generally positive reviews from music critics.[72] The album was later supported by the singles "Belong to the World", "Love in the Sky" and "Live For" featuring Drake. Tesfaye embarked on a fall tour from September 6 to November 25.[73] As of August 2015, the album had sold 273,000 copies in the United States.[74] On August 10, 2020, almost seven years after its release, Kiss Land reached number one on the iTunes R&B chart.[75]

In November 2013, Tesfaye opened for Justin Timberlake on The 20/20 Experience World Tour.[76] He then contributed to the soundtrack for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013), on the songs "Devil May Cry" and "Elastic Heart" with Sia and Diplo, the latter served as the second single from the soundtrack.[77]

In February 2014, Tesfaye remixed Beyoncé's single "Drunk in Love" from her eponymous studio album. Retaining the theme and concept of the song, he detailed the synopsis through the perspective of a male.[78] On August 25, Tesfaye collaborated with Ariana Grande on the song "Love Me Harder" from Grande's second studio album My Everything. The song was then released on September 30 as the fourth single from the album, and peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100.[79]

Tesfaye's first headlining tour, the King of the Fall Tour, was held across the United States in September and October 2014, and was supported by Schoolboy Q and Jhené Aiko.[80] The tour was followed by release of the songs "Often" and "King of the Fall", leading to speculation that the former was the lead single from his second studio album, Beauty Behind the Madness (2015).[81] On December 23, Tesfaye released the song "Earned It" from the soundtrack for Fifty Shades of Grey (2015). The single, which peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100, earned Tesfaye his first Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song.[82] The song won Best R&B Performance and was nominated for Best R&B Song and Best Song Written for Visual Media at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards.[83]

2015–2017: Beauty Behind the Madness and Starboy

Tesfaye performing at Bumbershoot 2015

On May 27, 2015, Tesfaye released the second single from Beauty Behind the Madness, "The Hills".[84] The single debuted at number twenty on the Billboard Hot 100, and peaked at number one, becoming Tesfaye's first number-one single. In June 2019, "The Hills" was certified diamond by the RIAA, making it Tesfaye's first diamond-certified record.[85][86]

In June 2015, after winning the Centric Award at the BET Awards, Tesfaye performed "Earned It" with Alicia Keys.[87] On June 8, he released the song "Can't Feel My Face" as the album's third single. The track was previously leaked in May, but was released as a single following a performance by Tesfaye at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference.[88] The single debuted at number twenty-four on the Billboard Hot 100, and peaked at number one, making it Tesfaye's third top 10 hit and his second number-one song in the United States.[89][90] The song was nominated for Record of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards.[91] He occupied all three slots on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart simultaneously with the aforementioned singles, becoming the first artist in history to accomplish this.[92] He was also unveiled as one of the musical faces of the streaming service Apple Music, alongside Drake.[93] During the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards, Apple debuted a two-part promotional commercial featuring Tesfaye, which had a guest appearance from John Travolta.[94] In July, Tesfaye headlined the inaugural FVDED in the Park festival in Surrey, British Columbia.[95] On June 29, Tesfaye was featured on Meek Mill's second studio album Dreams Worth More Than Money (2015), on the track "Pullin' Up".[96]

Beauty Behind the Madness, Tesfaye's second studio album, was released on August 28, 2015, and debuted atop the U.S. Billboard 200, earning 412,000 album equivalent units in its first week.[97][98] It reached the top 10 in over ten countries and reached number one in Canada, Australia, Norway, and the United Kingdom.[99][100] The album was promoted by Tesfaye headlining various summer music festivals, including Lollapalooza, the Hard Summer Music Festival, and the Bumbershoot Festival.[101] He announced The Madness Fall Tour, his first large-scale tour across the United States, which began in November, and concluded in December.[102][103] The album was certified double platinum in the U.S., and sold 1.5 million copies worldwide.[104] It was the most-streamed album in 2015, with over 60 million streams,[105] and was ranked on multiple lists of albums of the year.[106] The three singles that preceded the album were certified platinum in the United States.[107] The album won Best Urban Contemporary Album and was nominated for Album of the Year at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards.[108]

On September 4, 2015, Tesfaye was featured on Travis Scott's debut album Rodeo, on the track "Pray 4 Love".[109] On October 10, Tesfaye appeared on Saturday Night Live alongside actress Amy Schumer, performing as the show's musical guest.[110][111] This was his first performance on the show as a solo artist, after appearing with Ariana Grande to perform "Love Me Harder".[111] On December 18, Tesfaye was featured on Belly's single "Might Not" from his eighth mixtape Up For Days.[112]

On February 14, 2016, Tesfaye was featured on Kanye West's seventh studio album The Life of Pablo on the track "FML".[113][114] It marked their second collaboration, with West previously writing and producing on Tesfaye's single "Tell Your Friends" from Beauty Behind the Madness. On March 1, Tesfaye was featured on Future's single "Low Life" from his fourth studio album Evol.[115] On April 23, he was featured on Beyoncé's sixth studio album Lemonade on the track "6 Inch".[116] On August 26, Tesfaye was featured on Cashmere Cat's single "Wild Love" with Francis and the Lights, which served as the lead single from Cashmere Cat's debut studio album 9 (2017).[117]

In September 2016, Tesfaye announced that his third studio album, Starboy, would be released on November 25, and included collaborations with French electronic music duo Daft Punk.[118][119] He released the album's title track, which featured Daft Punk on September 21.[120] The song debuted at number 40 on the Billboard Hot 100, and peaked at number one, making it Tesfaye's third number-one single.[121] As of March 2020, the song is certified 8× platinum by the RIAA.[122] Their second collaboration, "I Feel It Coming" was released on November 24. The single peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100.[123] On October 1, Tesfaye made a second appearance on Saturday Night Live as the musical guest alongside actress Margot Robbie. During the show, he performed "Starboy" and "False Alarm".[124] On November 23, he released the short film M A N I A. Directed by Grant Singer, it featured excerpts from the album, including snippets from "All I Know" featuring Future, "Sidewalks" featuring Kendrick Lamar, "Secrets" and "Die for You".[125][126] Upon release, the album debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 with 348,000 units, making it Tesfaye's second consecutive number-one album.[127] As of January 2019, the album is certified triple platinum by the RIAA.[128] The album won Best Urban Contemporary Album at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards, making it Tesfaye's second win in the category.[129]

On February 15, 2017, Tesfaye was featured on Nav's debut single "Some Way", which also served as the lead single from his self-titled mixtape.[130] On February 24, he appeared on Future's sixth studio album Hndrxx, on the song "Comin Out Strong".[131] On April 19, Tesfaye appeared on the title track and second single from Lana Del Rey's fifth studio album.[132][133] On August 15, he was featured on French Montana's track "A Lie", the third single from his second studio album Jungle Rules. He then appeared on the Virgil Abloh-directed music video for Lil Uzi Vert's "XO Tour Llif3" alongside Nav. He was later featured on Lil Uzi Vert's debut album Luv Is Rage 2 on the track "UnFazed" and on Gucci Mane's eleventh studio album Mr. Davis on the track "Curve".

2018–2020: My Dear Melancholy, and After Hours

Tesfaye performing in Hong Kong in November 2018

On February 2, 2018, Tesfaye contributed to the soundtrack for Black Panther on the song "Pray for Me" with Kendrick Lamar. The track served as the third single from the soundtrack, and peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100.[134][135]

On March 30, 2018, Tesfaye released his debut extended play My Dear Melancholy,[136][137] after news of the project were teased and leaked.[138][139] The EP debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 with 169,000 units, making it Tesfaye's third consecutive number-one album and the shortest album, by track count, to top the chart in eight years.[140] On April 6, Tesfaye released the EP's lead single "Call Out My Name", which peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100.[141][142]

On June 6, 2018, Tesfaye announced his new Apple Music 1 radio show Memento Mori. The first episode was released two days later.[143] On November 21, he released his first greatest hits album The Weeknd in Japan.[144] On January 11, 2019, Tesfaye was featured on Gesaffelstein's song "Lost in the Fire", the second single from his second studio album Hyperion.[145][146] On April 18, he released "Power Is Power" with SZA and Travis Scott, the lead single from the Game of Thrones-inspired soundtrack.[147][148]

On November 24, 2019, Tesfaye teased his single "Blinding Lights" through a Mercedes-Benz commercial.[149] On November 27, he released "Heartless" as the lead single from his fourth studio album. The song debuted at number thirty-two on the Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at number one, making it Tesfaye's fourth number-one single.[150][151] "Blinding Lights" was released two days after the release of "Heartless" on November 29. The single debuted at number eleven on the Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at number one, making it Tesfaye's fifth number-one single.[152] "Blinding Lights" would then go on to become the first song in the chart's history to hold a spot in the top ten for an entire year.[153] It also became the longest charting song on the Hot 100 of all-time at 90 weeks, ending the week of September 11, 2021.[154][155] On November 23, 2021, "Blinding Lights" was ranked as the #1 Greatest Hot 100 Hit of All Time by Billboard, surpassing "The Twist" by Chubby Checker.[156]

On February 19, 2020, Tesfaye revealed that his fourth studio album would be titled After Hours, and would be released on March 20. He also released the album's title track as a promotional single.[157] On March 7, he made his third appearance as a musical guest on Saturday Night Live, alongside actor Daniel Craig. On the show, he performed "Blinding Lights" and debuted the track "Scared to Live".[158] Tesfaye released the album's third single "In Your Eyes" on March 24. The track peaked at number sixteen on the Billboard Hot 100.[159]

Upon release,[160] After Hours debuted atop the U.S. Billboard 200, earning 444,000 units, marking Tesfaye's fourth consecutive number-one album.[161] It became the most streamed R&B album of all-time, surpassing Tesfaye's own Starboy.[162][163] In the album's first charting week, Tesfaye also became the first artist to lead the Billboard 200, Billboard Hot 100, Billboard Artist 100, Hot 100 Songwriters and Hot 100 Producers charts simultaneously, and repeated his lead the following week.[164][165] The deluxe version of After Hours was released on March 29, 2020, and contained the tracks "Nothing Compares", "Missed You" and "Final Lullaby".[166]

On August 7, 2020, Tesfaye was featured on the late Juice Wrld's single "Smile". On August 28, he was featured on Calvin Harris' single "Over Now". On October 30, Tesfaye appeared on Ariana Grande's song "Off the Table" from her sixth studio album Positions.[167][168] On the same day, he appeared on Oneohtrix Point Never's track "No Nightmares" from his ninth studio album Magic Oneohtrix Point Never, which he also executive produced with OPN.[169] On November 5, Tesfaye appeared on the remix of Maluma's "Hawái". The remix was nominated for Best Urban Fusion/Performance at the 22nd Annual Latin Grammy Awards.[170][171] Later that month, he debuted three live performances on Vevo.[172] On December 10, he performed at iHeartRadio's Jingle Ball.[173]

Widely expected to receive multiple nominations for After Hours, Tesfaye was shut out of any nominations for the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards in March 2021.[174] Tesfaye criticized The Recording Academy via social media, claiming corruption.[175] Speculation arose that the announcement of his then-upcoming performance at the Super Bowl LV halftime show as well as the discrepancy of being nominated as pop music versus R&B contributed to the snubs.[176] In response to the controversy, Academy chairman Harvey Mason Jr. issued a statement:

We understand that the Weeknd is disappointed at not being nominated. I was surprised and can empathize with what he's feeling. His music this year was excellent, and his contributions to the music community and broader world are worthy of everyone's admiration. We were thrilled when we found out he would be performing at the upcoming Super Bowl and we would have loved to have him also perform on the Grammy stage the weekend before. Unfortunately, every year, there are fewer nominations than the number of deserving artists. But as the only peer-voted music award, we will continue to recognize and celebrate excellence in music while shining a light on the many amazing artists that make up our global community. To be clear, voting in all categories ended well before the Weeknd's performance at the Super Bowl was announced, so in no way could it have affected the nomination process. All Grammy nominees are recognized by the voting body for their excellence, and we congratulate them all.[177]

In January 2021, Tesfaye responded by saying that his previous Grammy awards are of no value to him anymore.[178] Despite the Recording Academy announcing the elimination of private nominating committees,[179] Tesfaye said that moving forward with his career, he will prevent his record label from submitting his work for Grammy consideration.[180]

2021: Super Bowl LV halftime show and new music

Tesfaye headlined the Super Bowl LV halftime show at the Raymond James Stadium in 2021

On February 5, 2021, Tesfaye released his second greatest hits album, The Highlights. The album debuted at number two on the US Billboard 200, making it Tesfaye's highest charting compilation album and the biggest first week debut for a greatest hits album since Blake Shelton's 2019 album, Fully Loaded: God's Country.[181]

Tesfaye headlined the Super Bowl LV halftime show on February 7, 2021, becoming the first Canadian solo artist to headline the show.[182][183][184][185] He reportedly spent $7 million of his own money on the Super Bowl performance.[186] Reviews of the performance were mixed, possibly due to the microphone quality, and the audio through the live performance.[187][188][189][190][191][192] The show resulted in a surge in streaming and downloads for Tesfaye's After Hours album as well as for the seven other songs he performed.[193][194] The halftime show earned three nominations at the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards: Outstanding Variety Special (Live), Outstanding Lighting Design/Lighting Direction for a Variety Special, and Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control for a Special.[195]

In March 2021, Tesfaye reissued his debut mixtape House of Balloons in its authentic form with the original mixes and samples to celebrate the tenth anniversary of its release.[196][197] In a collaboration with artist Daniel Arsham, limited edition merchandise was also released alongside the reissue, including shirts, trucker hats, hoodies and an exclusive vinyl. Six months later, in August, Tesfaye reissued his second 2011 mixtape Thursday to celebrate the tenth anniversary of its release.[198] Like House of Balloons, limited edition merchandise was released to accompany the reissue, designed by artist Mr. Yanen.[199]

In May 2021, Tesfaye began teasing new music. On May 4, during an interview with Variety, he said "If the last record is the After Hours of the night, then The Dawn is coming".[200] On May 13, he continued to hint at "the dawn" with the Instagram caption "The Dawn is Coming..."[201] On May 11, Tesfaye performed "Save Your Tears" at the Brit Awards. He also accepted his first Brit Award for International Male Solo Artist, which was presented to him by former US First Lady Michelle Obama.[202][203] On May 24, Tesfaye performed "Save Your Tears" at the Billboard Music Awards. He was nominated for a record sixteen awards, and won ten, including Top Artist and Top Hot 100 Song. When accepting his awards, Tesfaye continued to tease new music by saying "the After Hours are done, and The Dawn is coming".[201] On May 28, he performed the remix of "Save Your Tears" at the iHeartRadio Music Awards with Ariana Grande. On June 25, Tesfaye appeared on Doja Cat's single "You Right" from her third studio album Planet Her.[204] On July 22, he appeared on Belly's single "Better Believe" with Young Thug from his third studio album See You Next Wednesday.[205]

On August 2, 2021, Tesfaye released a snippet of his upcoming project onto social media platforms with the phrase "take my breath" ending the teaser.[206] Later that day, he covered the September 2021 issue of GQ, marking the magazine's first global publication.[207][208] Then, in a collaboration with NBC Sports and the 2020 Summer Olympics, Tesfaye announced his single "Take My Breath", which was released on August 6.[209][210] Later that month, he appeared on Kanye West's tenth studio album Donda, singing lead vocals on the track "Hurricane".[211]

On October 4, 2021, during an episode of Memento Mori, Tesfaye revealed that his upcoming fifth studio album is complete, and that he was waiting on a "couple characters that are key to the narrative".[212] He also revealed that he will be featured in a couple of songs that will arrive prior to the album's release.[213] On October 18, Tesfaye announced that his upcoming tour, originally titled The After Hours Tour, will be held entirely in stadiums due to arena constraints and is now scheduled to commence in the summer of 2022. The tour was renamed as the After Hours til Dawn Stadium Tour, and will incorporate elements from his fourth and upcoming fifth studio albums.[214][215] On October 22, Tesfaye appeared on Swedish House Mafia's single "Moth to a Flame" from their third upcoming studio album Paradise Again.[216] On November 5, he appeared on Post Malone's single "One Right Now" from his upcoming fourth studio album.[217][218] On November 11, he was featured on Rosalía's single "La Fama" from her upcoming third studio album Motomami.[219][220]

Artistry

Tesfaye cites Michael Jackson, Prince, and R. Kelly as his main musical inspirations

Tesfaye cites Michael Jackson, Prince, and R. Kelly as his main musical inspirations.[221] He has attributed Jackson's music as key in spurring him to be a singer, referencing the lyrics to "Dirty Diana" as an example.[19] He also said his high-flying vocal style was influenced by Ethiopian singers including Aster Aweke.[19] He grew up listening to a variety of music genres, including soul, hip hop, funk, indie rock, and post-punk.[222] Tesfaye has said: "I've always had an admiration for the era before I was born. You can hear it as far back as my first mixtape that the '80s – Siouxsie and the Banshees, Cocteau Twins – play such a huge role in my sound."[223]

Tesfaye's songs are "built around a fogged, crepuscular production",[224] and feature slow tempos,[225] rumbling bass, and forlorn echoes.[18] Tesfaye often sings in a falsetto register,[226] exhibiting an enticing tone. J. D. Considine finds his singing's "tremulous quality" similar to Michael Jackson, but writes that he eschews Jackson's "strong basis in the blues" for a more Arabic-influenced melisma.[227] Tesfaye possesses a wide light-lyric tenor vocal range, which spans over three octaves. His vocal range reaches its extreme low at the bass F (F2), and its peak high at the tenor G (G5), with a natural tessitura within the upper fourth octave.[228][229] Tesfaye often makes use of his head voice to build resonance to belt out strong high notes within the fifth octave.[229] His music incorporates samples that are unconventional in R&B production, including punk and alternative rock.[227] Marc Hogan of Spin says that Tesfaye's samples tend "to draw from rock critic-approved sources, though generally ones that already share elements of his sexual menace", with samples of artists such as Beach House, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Aaliyah.[230] Tesfaye worked mostly with producers Illangelo and Doc McKinney, whom Ian Cohen of Pitchfork credits with developing "a state-of-the-art R&B template" with the artist.[225] In concert, Tesfaye reappropriates his digitized productions with a suite-like arena rock aesthetic.[18]

His emotional, plaintive lyrics often express feelings of hurt and deal with subject matter such as sex,[224] drugs, and partying, this is seen especially in After Hours and House Of Balloons.[18] Hermione Hoby of The Guardian characterizes Tesfaye's songs as "narcotised-slow jams" and delineates their message as "partying is an existential experience, sex is fraught with alienation, and everything registers as unreal and unsettling".[224] Paul MacInnes of The Guardian stated that he views Tesfaye's three mixtapes as "a rough trajectory of party, after-party and hangover".[231] Anupa Mistry of the Toronto Standard observes throughout his mixtapes a "cast of supine, stoned zombie-women ... whose legs willingly part after being plied with substances and who morph into threats only when [he is] coming down and feeling vulnerable".[18] Tesfaye has viewed that, by singing vulgar, ignorant lyrics in an elegant, sexy way, he is paying homage to R. Kelly and Prince.[232]

Tesfaye's musical style has been described as contemporary R&B,[18][60][233] alternative R&B,[233][60][234] pop,[233][60] electropop,[233] and synth-pop.[235] Tesfaye has helped broaden R&B's musical palette to incorporate indie and electronic styles; his work has been categorized with the alternative R&B tag.[234] Mistry writes that he "will be obsequiously praised as the future of R&B music—because [he] is a black singer, not because he's making quantifiable, canonical R&B".[18] Andy Kellman of AllMusic categorizes him as an "alternative R&B act".[60] While promoting his third album Starboy, Tesfaye also revealed Lana Del Rey,[236] David Bowie,[237] the Smiths, Bad Brains, Talking Heads, DeBarge,[238] 50 Cent, the Wu-Tang Clan,[239][240] and Eminem as influences.[241][242] When electronic music duo Daft Punk announced their split, Tesfaye commented on an interview with Variety: "Those guys are one of the reasons I make music, so I can't even compare them to other people..."[243]

Other ventures

Acting

Tesfaye is a cinephile, and has made numerous movie references in his music videos and teasers.[244][245] On August 30, 2019, during the Telluride Film Festival, he made his acting debut in the film Uncut Gems.[246] On March 7, 2020, during his third appearance as a musical guest on Saturday Night Live, he starred in the skit "On The Couch" with actors Kenan Thompson and Chris Redd.[247] On May 4, he co-wrote and starred in an episode of American Dad!.[248] In July, he voiced three characters during the 200th episode of Robot Chicken.[249] On June 29, 2021, Tesfaye announced that he will be co-creating, co-writing, executive producing and starring in the upcoming HBO television drama series The Idol, alongside Euphoria creator Sam Levinson and Tesfaye's producing partner Reza Fahim.[250]

Business

During the Kiss Land Fall Tour, Tesfaye collaborated with condom company ONE to give away limited-edition condoms at his shows.[251] The condoms featured art inspired by his album Kiss Land printed on one side and "Oxcy" – the album's mascot – printed on the other.[252]

In November 2015, to further promote Beauty Behind the Madness, Tesfaye collaborated with Pax Labs to release a limited edition version of the PAX 2 vaporizer, an electronic cigarette that could be used in shows during The Madness Fall Tour.[253] The e-cigarette featured the "xo" branding on the front, as well as having the ability to play "The Hills" when turned on.[254] The original PAX 2 cost $279.99; the limited edition e-cigarette cost $324.99.[255] PAX also acted as an official sponsor for the tour, presenting special backstage VIP activations for fans who bought packages that included the e-cigarette.[256][257] PAX Labs chief marketing officer Richard Mumby stated "Music and fashion have always been a natural fit for Pax...This was the perfect opportunity to bring together the Weeknd's style with our technology."[257]

In 2016, Tesfaye announced a partnership with sportswear brand Puma, as a global brand ambassador, for the company's "Run the Streets" campaign. It was launched in early November, with the final collection made available to coincide with the release of his album Starboy.[258] He also hosted several pop-up retail stores for the "Starboy: Limited Capsule" collection,[259] which were available across North America, including New York City, Los Angeles, and Toronto.[260] With this partnership, Tesfaye also released three capsule collections named PUMA X XO including T-shirts, caps, sweatpants, bomber jackets and a pair of shoes called the Parallels.[261][262]

Tesfaye has also begun his own XO branded merchandise, which was furthered by a collaboration with H&M to present its Spring 2017 campaign. The campaign featured new collaborative pieces developed with the singer's brand, and was released on March 2, 2017.[263][264] Tesfaye collaborated with H&M again for a fall collection, however, after an incident which he described as "deeply offensive" in 2018, he cut ties with the company.[265] In May 2017, Tesfaye had a limited edition pop up sale for the "Starboy 2017 Limited Capsule Collection".[259] The collections were available in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami Beach, Houston, Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.[260] Tesfaye has collaborated with artists and designers such as Kidult, Alexander Wang[266] and Futura.[267]

In October 2017, after teasing on Instagram,[268] Tesfaye revealed at the New York Comic-Con that a Starboy comic book in partnership with Marvel Comics would be released on June 13, 2018,[269] with the title character being a superhero modelled after himself.[270] Tesfaye's brand, XO, released a collection of apparel in collaboration with A Bathing Ape in August 2018[271][272] and again in January 2020.[273]

In April 2019, Tesfaye bought ownership in esports company OverActive Media Group, the owners of Splyce and Overwatch League team Toronto Defiant, and will serve as the company's global ambassador.[274] On August 31, 2020, Tesfaye partnered with TD Bank to launch Black HXOUSE (often known simply as HXOUSE), an entrepreneurial initiative.[275] On September 9, 2020, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a $221 million joint venture with HXOUSE for Black Canadian entrepreneurs.[276]

In late March 2021, Tesfaye announced that a collection of visual artwork and an unreleased song titled "Acephalous" would be sold at an auction in the form of a non-fungible token (NFT).[277][278] The auction went live on April 3 at 11:00 Pacific Standard Time (PST) on marketplace Nifty Gateway. The collection sold for over US$2,000,000, with one song selling for $490,000.[279] The collection was made of eight pieces: three audio-visual items offered as open editions, four static artworks offered as two silent auctions and two drawings, and a main standalone video titled "The Source".

Philanthropy

After being presented with a Bikila Award for Professional Excellence in 2014, Tesfaye donated $50,000 to the University of Toronto to fund a new course on Ge'ez, the classic language of Ethiopia.[280] In August 2016, he funded a new Ethiopian Studies program at the University of Toronto.[281] In May 2016, during Orthodox Easter, Tesfaye donated $50,000 to the St. Mary Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in Toronto, Canada, a church he attended growing up.[282][283] In December 2015, he worked with Ryan Seacrest's foundation to visit the Children's Hospital in Atlanta.[284][285]

In June 2017, Tesfaye donated $100,000 to the Suubi Health Center, a maternity and children's medical facility in Budondo, Uganda. Tesfaye was inspired to support the center after learning of French Montana's work with Global Citizen and Mama Hope to help raise awareness for Suubi and the people of Uganda.[286]

In April 2020, Tesfaye relaunched XO's line of non-medical cloth face masks, with 100% of the proceeds going to the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund, a campaign launched by the GRAMMYs to help musicians affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.[287] With the profit, Tesfaye donated $500,000 each to MusiCares and $500,000 to his hometown front-line hospital workers of the Scarborough Health Network in Ontario, Canada for a total of $1,000,000 to COVID-19 relief.[288]

In the context of media outlets reporting cases of police brutality, in July 2016, he expressed disdain, tweeting "blue lives murder".[289][290] In August 2016, Tesfaye donated $250,000 to Black Lives Matter.[291][281][292] In May 2020, in response to the murder of George Floyd and the protests that followed, Tesfaye donated US$500,000 to the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, Colin Kaepernick's Know Your Rights Camp, and the National Bail Out.[293] He then urged other music executives, major record labels, and streaming services to donate to the cause as well.[294][295]

On August 7, 2020, Tesfaye held "the Weeknd Experience", an interactive virtual concert on the social media platform TikTok, which drew 2 million total viewers including 275,000 concurrent viewers and raised over $350,000 for the Equal Justice Initiative. He also donated $300,000 to Global Aid for Lebanon in support of victims of the Beirut explosion.[296][297] On November 2, the University of Toronto announced that it was able to reach and surpass its fundraising goal of $500,000 for its Ethiopic program, which included a $30,000 donation from Tesfaye.[298]

On April 4, 2021, Tesfaye announced a $1 million donation through the World Food Programme to relief efforts in Ethiopia for people affected by the Tigray War.[299] In May, he was among the celebrities expressing more solidarity for civilians who died during the 2021 Israel–Palestine crisis.[300][301] On June 9, Tesfaye met with the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, Samantha Power, to discuss the humanitarian crisis of the Tigray War. During the meeting, he was briefed on the latest developments and discussed ways of increasing public pressure so direct action can be made to help civilians.[302][303]

On September 23, 2021, Tesfaye was honored with the Quincy Jones Humanitarian Award at the inaugural Music in Action Awards, which was presented by the Black Music Action Coalition.[304] On October 7, Tesfaye was appointed as a UN Goodwill Ambassador for the World Food Programme.[305][306]

Personal life

Tesfaye began dating model Bella Hadid in early 2015. The couple were first seen together in April at Coachella,[307][308] and Hadid starred in his music video for "In the Night" a few months later. They made their red carpet debut as a couple at the 2016 Grammy Awards.[309] In November 2016, the couple broke up due to their conflicting schedules.[310] Tesfaye started dating singer and actress Selena Gomez in January 2017.[311] They moved in together temporarily later on in September,[312] but broke up a month later.[313] Tesfaye and Hadid got back together in May 2018,[314] and split once again in August 2019.[315]

On his early albums, to help get over his writer's block, Tesfaye often used drugs and abused illegal substances such as ketamine, cocaine, MDMA, magic mushrooms, and cough syrup.[316] In December 2013, he said that drugs were a "crutch" for him when it came to writing music.[317] On social media, he typically suffixed his first name with "xo",[224] which is often used as an emoticon for hugs and kisses.[224] According to The Guardian's Hermione Hoby, this was Tesfaye's intention, though others believe it was a reference to his recreational use of ecstasy and oxycodone.[26][318] He later altered the handles on his social media to reflect his stage name in preparation for the release of Starboy.[319] On August 2, 2021, during a cover story with GQ, Tesfaye described himself as being "sober lite", meaning that he has stopped using hard drugs, with the exception of marijuana. He also noted that he drinks alcohol occasionally, stating: "I'm not a heavy drinker, as much as I used to be. The romance of drinking isn't there."[320]

In the beginning of his career, Tesfaye refrained from participating in interviews, choosing to communicate via Twitter, which he attributed to shyness and insecurities.[321] To this day, Tesfaye is still adamant about not participating in interviews, only agreeing to be interviewed in rare situations.[322]

Tesfaye's hairstyle, which has been described as his most recognizable trait, especially in 2015 during Tesfaye's Beauty Behind the Madness era, has been claimed to be partly inspired by Brooklyn graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.[19][323] He began growing it out in 2011 and remarked at how easy it was to maintain with "a hard shampoo every once in a while".[19] He cut his hair in 2016, prior to the release of Starboy.[324]

Tesfaye currently resides in Bel Air, Los Angeles.[325][326] He previously lived in a penthouse in Westwood, Los Angeles.[327][328] In 2017, Tesfaye purchased a home in Hidden Hills, California for $18.5 million, which he sold to Madonna in 2021 for $19.3 million.[329] Since 2018, he has rented a penthouse in New York City.[330] In his spare time, Tesfaye enjoys watching television[25] and playing video games.[331][332][333]

Despite having previously worked with the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Toronto,[334] Tesfaye cancelled a scheduled appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! with Belly in May 2016 due to then-presidential candidate Donald Trump being present.[335][336]

Tesfaye was raised as an Ethiopian Orthodox. When asked about his religious beliefs in 2020, Tesfaye said "I dunno...everything is a test, and if you are religious or spiritual, you have to go through things."[337]

Controversies and legal issues

In January 2015, Tesfaye was arrested for allegedly punching a Las Vegas Police Department officer after he was taken into an elevator to break up a fight.[338][339] He pleaded no contest and was sentenced to 50 hours of community service.[340]

In January 2019, Tesfaye was criticized for some of the lyrics in his and Gesaffelstein's single "Lost in the Fire". The second verse of the song, with the lines "You said you might be into girls, said you're going through a phase / Keeping your heart safe / Well, baby, you can bring a friend / She can ride on top your face / While I fuck you straight", were accused of being homophobic, fetishizing bisexuality, and perpetuating the falsehood that a person who identifies as being part of the LGBTQ+ community can be "turned straight".[341][342] However, some listeners have suggested that the lyrics were actually referring to a sex position.[343] Tesfaye quietly addressed the controversy in the song "Snowchild" from his fourth studio album After Hours, with the lines "Every month another accusation / Only thing I'm phobic of is failing".[344][345]

Plagiarism allegations

In December 2015, Tesfaye was sued by Cutting Edge Music, which alleged that the bassline for "The Hills" had been taken from a composition featured in the score for the 2013 science fiction film The Machine.[346] One of the producers of the song was alleged to have sent a private Twitter message to Tom Raybould, the composer of the film's score, to tell him about the sample.[347]

In September 2018, Tesfaye and Daft Punk were sued for allegedly stealing the rhythm for "Starboy" from Yasminah, an Ethiopian poet, singer, and songwriter.[348] Tesfaye denied the allegations.[349]

In April 2019, Tesfaye was sued by British trio William Smith, Brian Clover, and Scott McCulloch, who accused Tesfaye of copyright infringement from plagiarising their song "I Need to Love" in order to create his song "A Lonely Night". They sought $150,000 from Tesfaye and Belly. In August 2019, the lawsuit was dismissed via summary judgment with the option to amend, with the court ruling that they had failed to show that Tesfaye or anyone else involved in making "A Lonely Night" had access to their song or that the works were substantially similar.[350] In September 2019, the plaintiffs filed an amended claim based on secondary infringement, which is still in litigation.[351][352]

In February 2020, Tesfaye and Kendrick Lamar were sued by the now-defunct indie band Yeasayer, claiming that "Pray for Me" includes an unauthorized sample of their song "Sunrise".[353] Later that year, Yeasayer voluntarily dismissed their lawsuit.[354]

In September 2021, Tesfaye, Nicolás Jaar, and Frank Dukes were sued for copyright infringement by producers Suniel Fox and Henry Strange, protesting that “Call Out My Name" is “strikingly [or] substantially similar, if not identical” to Fox and Strange’s 2015 track “Vibeking".[355][356]

Accolades

Tesfaye has won three Grammy Awards, nineteen Billboard Music Awards, six American Music Awards, two MTV Video Music Awards and fifteen Juno Awards.[357] He has also received nominations for an Academy Award, a Latin Grammy Award and a Primetime Emmy Award.[358]

In October 2014, Tesfaye was awarded the Allan Slaight Honour by Canada's Walk of Fame for "making a positive impact in the fields of music, film, literature, visual or performing arts, sports, innovation or philanthropy".[359] In 2021, the Mayor of Toronto John Tory announced that the city will observe February 7 as "The Weeknd Day" to commemorate Tesfaye's Super Bowl halftime performance.[360][361]

Discography

Studio albums

Filmography

Tours

From left to right: Greenaway, Tesfaye, Lewis, and Jones in 2020

Headlining

Supporting


Touring members

  • Patrick Greenaway – lead guitar (2011–present)
  • Ledaris "LJ" Jones – bass, keyboards (2013–present)
  • Ricky Lewis – drums (2011–present)

Notes

  1. ^ Ethiopians do not use surnames but rather their father's first name as their family name. Makonnen would traditionally be his family name and Tesfaye would be his grandfather's name.
  2. ^ Tesfaye's biological parents were never married. When Tesfaye made a donation to the University of Toronto's Ethiopic program in November 2020, the full name of his mother was revealed as Samrawit Hailu.[17]

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