Music to my ears: The Weeknd

Abel Tesfaye, known by his stage name The Weeknd, is a Canadian singer and record producer.

Originally, in 2010, Tesfaye uploaded songs to YouTube under the name ‘The Weeknd’, and no one knew his true identity. Shortly after, he released three mixtapes: House of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes of Silence.

His voice is often compared to that of the late Michael Jackson– often utilizing his falsetto and singing in a pleading, anxious voice. His lyrics are often very emotional, expressing his hurt and discussing subjects that gain attention in the music industry: drugs, sex, and partying.

Partying seems to be described as an out-of-body, empty experience. He describes sex as being alienating and isolating. His music seems unreal, slow-tempo with a “fogged” production and often seems echoed.

For his music, he samples tracks that are considered unconventional for the R&B genre. He tends to sing over tracks that are made for pop, punk, and alternative music, but still manages to give it an R&B feel.

His song Thursday disturbingly discusses his emotional detachment to women. He says, “not on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday/ Sunday, but on Thursday… Thursday”. He spends the entire song ‘explaining’ how he will only see this girl, who is in love with him, on one day of the week. This symbolizes his severe isolation and detachment from women who care about him.

His music videos are often convoluted and contain symbolism that is sometimes hard to understand. For example, his music video for The Knowing is set on a different planet. The song itself is twisted and emotional– discussing how he ‘knows’ his girlfriend has been unfaithful, but they continue to stay together in the loveless relationship.

The video itself has connections to Ethiopian history (where the singer is from). It often shows the girl in silhouette, playing on the fact that she is empty and emotionless. The sequences are seemingly non sequitur, but all connect with the underlying themes of spite and revenge.

The Weeknd has never given a formal interview, according to a blog on details.com. Unlike most other celebrities, he keeps his life very private, which gives him somewhat of a mysterious feel. In a message to his fans, he explains why.

He says that he is a “man of few words” and doesn’t like to “spoon-feed” his audience. He said that he “grew up idolizing story tellers who tell stories using symbolism, so it was in [his] nature to do the same”.

Drake, a hip-hop artist, is also good friends with Tesfaye. His promotion of The Weeknd’s songs gained him a large fanbase and boosted his popularity. They have also collaborated on a few songs, such as “Crew Love” and “Trust Issues”.

The reason that The Weeknd has no ‘e’ has been a matter of controversy. Originally, Tesfaye was expected to collaborate with artist Jeremy Rose to form a group named The Weekend. Tesfaye decided to split with Rose, and took a few of the songs that they collaborated on with him. Shortly after, he released the songs under the name The Weeknd.

The letters ‘XO’ appear often in signatures and on covers from The Weeknd. This has multiple meanings– some speculate that it has to do with the drugs ecstasy and oxycontin. Others believe that it simply stands for hugs and kisses. Either definition is applicable– as displayed by the motto of his crew, “XO til we overdose”.

Overall, Abel Tesfaye (The Weeknd) is an up-and-coming artist shadowed in symbolism and mystery. He is an underground artist slowly turning mainstream. His album Trilogy was released in 2013 and is the first of many to come in the future.

As he says in his blog: “expect more from me very soon… Thank you for your patience and loyalty, I will not disappoint.”

 

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