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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Weeknd
FEQ July 2018 The Weeknd (44778856382) (cropped).jpg
The Weeknd 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
  • actor
  • filmmaker
Years active2009–present
AwardsFull list
Musical career
Genres
Labels
Associated acts
Websitetheweeknd.com
Signature
Logo de The Weeknd.png

Abel Makkonen Tesfaye (born February 16, 1990), known professionally as the Weeknd, is a Canadian singer, songwriter, and record producer. Born in Toronto and raised in Scarborough, Tesfaye began his recording career in 2009 by anonymously uploading his song "Do It" to YouTube.[1] Two years later, he met music executives Sal Slaiby and Amir Esmailian, with whom he founded XO Records.[2] He chose his stage name in tribute to when he, along with a friend, dropped out of high school at seventeen years old, took his mattress, and "left one weekend and never came home". However, his estranged former producer Jeremy Rose claims the name was his idea.[3][4] The letter E was excluded to avoid trademark problems with Canadian band the Weekend.[5][3]

Under XO, Tesfaye released his debut mixtapes: House of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes of Silence. He quickly earned a following and critical recognition from several mainstream publications due to his dark style of Contemporary R&B and the mystique surrounding his identity.[6] In 2012, he 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 sophomore album, Beauty Behind the Madness (2015), with the Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles "Can't Feel My Face" and "The Hills", won Best Urban Contemporary Album and was nominated for Album of the Year at the 2016 Grammy Awards. It was among the best-selling albums of 2015.[7]

Tesfaye's third album Starboy (2016) was a similar commercial success and included the number-one single of the same name, and also won Best Urban Contemporary Album at the 2018 Grammy Awards. His fourth album, After Hours (2020), featured the Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles "Heartless", "Save Your Tears", and "Blinding Lights", the latter of which has become the first song in history to spend over a year in the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100,[8][9] and was the most streamed song on Spotify in 2020.[10]

Among the world's best selling musical artists with over 75 million records sold[11] and on the list of most-streamed artists on Spotify,[12] Tesfaye has won many accolades, including three Grammy Awards, five American Music Awards, nineteen Billboard Music Awards, two MTV Video Music Awards, fifteen Juno Awards, five SOCAN awards and one Brit Award, and has been nominated for an Academy Award.[13] He holds several chart records, being the first artist to simultaneously hold the top three positions on the Billboard Hot R&B Songs chart with "Can't Feel My Face", "Earned It", and "The Hills".[14] In February 2015, he was awarded the Allan Slaight Award by Canada's Walk of Fame.[15] In 2017, he was featured on the cover of Forbes for his annual earnings of $92 million.[16] Elton John listed him as one of the 100 Most Influential People of 2020 in Time.[17] Tesfaye has a notable voice with a soaring falsetto and its singular tremolo.[18] He has influenced artists in many contemporary music styles including pop,[19] hip hop, and R&B.[20]

Early life

Abel Makkonen Tesfaye was born on February 16, 1990, in Toronto, Ontario, to Ethiopian immigrants Makkonen and Samra Tesfaye[21][5][22] and grew up in Scarborough, Toronto.[5][23][24] He is an only child and was raised by his grandmother and mother after his parents separated.[25][26] While living with his grandmother, he learned Amharic, which he also spoke with his mother.[27] He attended services at the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.[21][3] 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."[21]

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.[5][28] He attended West Hill Collegiate Institute and Birchmount Park Collegiate Institute high schools in Scarborough. In 2007, he dropped out of school and moved to Parkdale, Toronto.[29][30]

Career

2009–2011: Early beginnings

In August 2009, Tesfaye uploaded the song "Do It" to YouTube under the pseudonym "AbelOfficial".[1] The following year, Tesfaye 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 sang on, which were ultimately scrapped. Rose let Tesfaye keep the tracks he had produced under the condition that he would be credited for them.[4] In December 2010, Tesfaye uploaded "What You Need", "Loft Music" and "The Morning" to YouTube under pseudonym "xoxxxoooxo", which was later changed to "the Weeknd".[31] His identity was initially unknown.[32][33] The songs drew some attention online, and were later included in a blog post from Drake.[4][34] The songs subsequently received coverage from various media outlets, including Pitchfork and The New York Times. Before adopting the stage name the Weeknd, he worked under the aliases of the Noise and Kin Kane.[21] When he was first making music, Tesfaye worked at American Apparel. Due to his anonymity, his co-workers listened to his music without knowing it was his.[35][36][37]

In 2011, Tesfaye met Sal Slaiby, founder of SAL&CO and CP Group, and Amir Esmailian, with whom he founded XO Records.[2] On March 21, 2011, XO Records released his debut mixtape House of Balloons.[19][38][39] The mixtape included production from Canadian producers Illangelo and Doc McKinney, and included the tracks produced by Rose although he did not receive production credits.[4] House of Balloons was met with critical acclaim.[40] It was named as one of ten shortlisted nominees for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize.[41]

One of his first concerts was to the Black Student Association at the University of Toronto in April 2011.[37][42]

In July 2011, Tesfaye began a tour of Toronto, with his first live performance at the Mod Club Theatre. Drake was in attendance to view the performance, which ran for ninety minutes.[43] At the show, Drake discussed collaborating with Tesfaye. Tesfaye performed as the opening act for Drake's shows scheduled at the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, and appeared at the second annual OVO Fest in July 2011.[44] In the summer of 2011, Tesfaye contributed to four songs on Drake's Take Care, both as a writer and a featured artist.[45]

Tesfaye refrained from participating in interviews, choosing to communicate via Twitter, which he attributed to shyness and insecurities.[46][47] To this day, Tesfaye is still adamant in participating in interviews, and only partaking in them when necessary.

Tesfaye's third mixtape Echoes of Silence was released on December 21, 2011, a year after his debut singles.[48]

In December 2011, Noise EP, consisting of 10 tracks that were created before his first album, was posted online.[49] On October 31, 2012, Tesfaye posted via Twitter that: "noise ep was bunch of songs leaked by salty producers and found AFTER HOB dropped. demo's written as a teen to get recognition. xo."[50]

2012–2014: Trilogy and Kiss Land

Tesfaye performing at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in 2012
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,[51] sold-out shows at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City, which were positively reviewed by Rolling Stone,[51][52] and various European festivals, including the 2012 Primavera Sound Festivals in Spain and Portugal,[53] and the Wireless Festival in London in July 2012.[54][55] His performance at Wilton's Music Hall in London in June 2012 included a cover version of Michael Jackson's "Dirty Diana" and had Katy Perry and Florence Welch in attendance.[56]

In September 2012, Tesfaye signed with Republic Records in a joint venture with his imprint label, XO.[57]

In December 2012, the compilation album for the mixtapes, Trilogy, consisting of three new songs as well as remastered versions of older songs, was released.[23][58][59] It also officially credited Rose as a producer and writer on the three songs from House of Balloons for which he did not initially receive credit.[60] Trilogy charted 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.[61][62] Trilogy was later certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and double-platinum by Music Canada in May 2013.[63][64] A week later, he gained a nomination for the Sound of 2013 poll award by the BBC.[65]

Tesfaye performing at Massey Hall in October 2013
Tesfaye performing at Massey Hall in October 2013

On May 16, 2013, Tesfaye premiered the title track to his debut studio album Kiss Land,[66] and announced the album's release date as September 10.[67] The album was later promoted by the singles "Belong to the World" and "Live For" featuring Drake. Tesfaye embarked on a Fall tour from September 6 to November 25, 2013.[68] Upon release, Kiss Land debuted at number two on the U.S. Billboard 200, selling 96,000 copies.[69] It sold over 273,000 copies in the United States and received generally positive reviews from music critics.[70]

Tesfaye appeared on The 20/20 Experience World Tour, joining headline act Justin Timberlake for six shows.[71] This was three weeks prior to his contributions to the soundtrack for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013), contributing "Devil May Cry", as well as featuring on Sia's "Elastic Heart", the second lead single from the soundtrack.[72]

In February 2014, Tesfaye remixed "Drunk in Love", a single by Beyoncé from her eponymous studio album. Retaining the theme and concept of the song, he detailed the synopsis through the perspective of a male.[73]

Tesfaye's first headlining tour, the King of the Fall Tour, was held across the United States in September and October 2014, and included Schoolboy Q and Jhené Aiko as opening acts.[74] This was followed by his release of the songs "Often" and "King of the Fall", leading to speculation that the former was the first single from his second studio album.[75]

In October 2014, he collaborated with Ariana Grande on a duet titled "Love Me Harder", which peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100.[76]

In December 2014, he released "Earned It", a single from Fifty Shades of Grey (2015). The song, which marked his second contribution to a film, peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100. In February 2016, he performed the song at the 88th Academy Awards, where it was nominated for Best Original Song.[77]

2015–2016: Beauty Behind the Madness

Tesfaye performing at Bumbershoot 2015
Tesfaye performing at Bumbershoot 2015

In June 2015, after winning the Centric Award at the BET Awards 2015, Tesfaye performed "Earned It" with Alicia Keys, and debuted the song "The Hills".[78][79] "The Hills" was later released for digital download, and debuted at number twenty on the Billboard Hot 100. The single went on to top the Billboard chart, marking Tesfaye's first number-one single. In June 2019, the single was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), making it Tesfaye's first diamond-certified record.[80][81]

On June 8, 2015, "Can't Feel My Face", a previously Internet leaked track, was released as the album's third single, following its performance at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference.[82] The song debuted at number twenty-four on the Billboard Hot 100, and reached number-one on the Hot 100, making it his third top 10 hit, and his second number-one hit in the United States.[83][84] He occupied all three slots on Billboard's Hot R&B Songs chart simultaneously with the aforementioned singles, becoming the first artist in history to accomplish this.[85] He headlined FVDED in the Park 2015, a festival in Surrey, British Columbia.[86] Tesfaye was unveiled as one of the musical faces of the streaming service Apple Music, a position he harboured with frequent collaborator Drake.[87]

In August 2015, during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards, Apple debuted a two-part promotional commercial featuring Tesfaye, which had a guest appearance from John Travolta.[88]

Beauty Behind the Madness, his second studio album, was released on August 28, 2015, and debuted atop the Billboard 200, earning 412,000 album equivalent units in its first week.[89][90] It reached the top 10 in over ten countries and reached number one in Canada, Australia, Norway, and the United Kingdom.[91][92] The album was promoted by Tesfaye headlining various summer music festivals, including Lollapalooza, the Hard Summer Music Festival, and the Bumbershoot Festival.[93] He announced The Madness Fall Tour, his first large-scale tour across the United States, which began in November 2015, and concluded in December 2015.[94][95] The album was certified double platinum in the U.S., and sold 1.5 million copies worldwide.[96] It was the most-streamed album in 2015, with over 60 million,[97] and was ranked on multiple lists of albums of the year.[98]

On September 8, 2015, Tesfaye became the first male artist to simultaneously hold the top three spots on the Billboard Hot R&B Songs chart, with the three singles that preceded the release of his album. They all went platinum in the United States.[99] After engaging in multiple musical collaborations with Belly,[100] Meek Mill,[101] and Travis Scott,[102][103] Tesfaye was featured on "Low Life", the triple platinum single from Future's fourth studio album.[104]

On October 10, 2015, Tesfaye appeared on Saturday Night Live alongside actress Amy Schumer, performing as the show's musical guest.[105] This was his first performance on the show as a solo artist, after appearing with Ariana Grande to perform "Love Me Harder".[102]

2016–2018: Starboy and My Dear Melancholy,

Tesfaye was featured on "FML", a track on Kanye West's The Life of Pablo.[106][107] It marked the second collaboration between the pair, with West providing production and writing on "Tell Your Friends" from Beauty Behind the Madness. Tesfaye appeared on "6 Inch", the fifth song on Beyoncé's Lemonade.[108]

In August 2016, Tesfaye announced a collaboration with Norwegian record producer Cashmere Cat, titled "Wild Love".[109]

In September 2016, Tesfaye announced a new album, Starboy, with a release date of November 2016 and including collaborations with French electronic music duo Daft Punk.[110][111] He released the album's title track, which features Daft Punk on September 21. The song received platinum certification and went to number one in the United States, as well as in various other countries.[112] A second collaboration with Daft Punk, entitled "I Feel It Coming", was released a week proceeding the album's release, alongside the solo efforts "Party Monster" and "False Alarm".[113]

On October 1, 2016, Tesfaye returned to Saturday Night Live, performing "Starboy" and "False Alarm".[114]

He released a 12-minute short film, titled M A N I A, on November 23.[115] 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".[116]

In February 2017, Tesfaye appeared on Hndrxx, Future's sixth studio album,[117] as well as on the Some Way debut single from Nav, who was signed by XO in January 2017.[118]

In April 2017, he became the first feature utilized by Lana Del Rey, appearing on "Lust for Life", the title track and second single from her fifth studio album.[119][120] He was featured on French Montana's "A Lie", the third single from his second album Jungle Rules and on Cashmere Cat's debut single "Wild Love" from his album 9. He appeared on the Virgil Abloh-directed music video for Lil Uzi Vert's "XO Tour Llif3" alongside XO signee Nav. He was later featured on Lil Uzi Vert's Luv Is Rage 2 and Gucci Mane's eleventh studio album Mr. Davis.

Tesfaye performing in November 2018
Tesfaye performing in November 2018

In January 2018, he was nominated for Best Urban Contemporary Album at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards for Starboy and ended up winning the award.[121]

On January 31, 2018, Top Dawg Entertainment revealed the full tracklist of the Kendrick Lamar-curated Black Panther soundtrack album[122] with Tesfaye featured on one of the tracks, "Pray for Me". On February 2, 2018, it was released as the soundtrack's third single. This was the second collaboration between Tesfaye and Lamar, after the song "Sidewalks" on the Starboy album.[citation needed]

After being teased and leaked in the days before, on March 30, 2018, his debut extended play My Dear Melancholy, was released.[123][124][125][126][127][128]

On June 6, 2018, Tesfaye announced his new Beats 1 radio show Memento Mori. The first episode was released two days later.[129]

On November 21, 2018, the compilation album The Weeknd in Japan was released and served as his first greatest hits album.[130][131]

2019–present: After Hours and new music

In January 2019, Tesfaye and French producer Gesaffelstein, who previously worked with Tesfaye on EP My Dear Melancholy, Gesaffelstein released "Lost in the Fire", the second single off the latter's second studio album, Hyperion.[132][133]

On April 18, 2019, Tesfaye released "Power Is Power" alongside SZA and Travis Scott, a song part of For the Throne: Music Inspired by the HBO Series Game of Thrones, inspired by the television show Game of Thrones, of which Tesfaye himself is a fan.[134] On May 5, Tesfaye, SZA and Travis Scott released the music video for their Game of Thrones-inspired track.[135]

On November 24, 2019, "Blinding Lights", the lead single of his fourth studio album After Hours, was announced via a Mercedes-Benz commercial on German television.[136] The next day, footage of a music video being shot in Fremont Street, Las Vegas surfaced.[137]

In promotion of the upcoming album, episode seven of the Weeknd's manager Amir Esmailian's Memento Mori Beats 1 radio show was released on November 27, 2019.[138] The single "Heartless" debuted at number 32 on the Billboard Hot 100 and later became his fourth number one single on the chart, the following week.[139] The second single "Blinding Lights" debuted at number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 the same week "Heartless" topped it, fell to number 52 in its second week, and reached number one on the chart on April 4, 2020.[140][141] Tesfaye revealed the album's title, After Hours, and release date, March 20, 2020, on February 19, 2020, and released the album's title track as a promotional single simultaneously.[142]

On March 7, 2020, Tesfaye appeared on Saturday Night Live, performing "Blinding Lights" and the previously unreleased "Scared to Live".[143] The album was released on March 20, 2020, containing the singles "Heartless", "Blinding Lights" and "In Your Eyes".[144] The record debuted atop the US Billboard 200, earning 444,000 album-equivalent units of which 275,000 were in pure sales.[145] On March 29, 2020, Tesfaye announced the release of three more previously unreleased songs: "Nothing Compares", "Missed You" and "Final Lullaby".[146] In the album's first charting week, Tesfaye became the first artist to lead the Billboard 200, Billboard Hot 100, Billboard Artist 100, Hot 100 Songwriters and Hot 100 Producers charts simultaneously.[147] After Hours had a second consecutive week at number one on the Hot 100 Songwriters chart in April 2020, due to five entries on the latest Billboard Hot 100 (singles), all of which he co-wrote and co-produced.[148]

On August 7, 2020, late American rapper and singer Juice Wrld released "Smile" as a single, with Tesfaye as a feature. Three weeks later, on August 28, he released the single "Over Now" with Scottish DJ and record producer Calvin Harris. After six years, Tesfaye worked with Ariana Grande again on a song called "Off the Table."[149] The song was featured on track five of her album Positions,[150] which released October 30, 2020. On the same day, Magic Oneohtrix Point Never was released by Daniel Lopatin. The album featured vocals from Tesfaye on track eight, "No Nightmares." He also executive produced the album along with Lopatin.[151] On November 5, 2020, Maluma released the "Hawái" remix featuring Tesfaye.[152] He also debuted three live performances on Vevo in November 2020,[153] and performed at iHeartRadio's Jingle Ball alongside other artists on December 10, 2020.[154]

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.[155] Tesfaye criticized The Recording Academy via social media, claiming corruption.[156] 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.[157] In response to the controversy, Academy interim 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.[158]

In January 2021, Tesfaye responded by saying that his previous Grammy awards are of no value to him anymore.[159] Despite the Recording Academy announcing the elimination of private nominating committees,[160] Tesfaye said that moving forward with his career, he will prevent his record label from submitting his work to The Recording Academy.[161]

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.[162]

Tesfaye headlined the Super Bowl LV halftime show on February 7, 2021, making history as the first Canadian solo artist to headline the show.[163][164][165][166] He reportedly spent $7 million of his own money on the Super Bowl performance.[167] Reviews of the performance were mixed, however, this could've been due to the microphone quality, and the audio through the live performance.[168][169][170][171][172][173] 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. It also resulted in an increase in ticket sales for his upcoming After Hours Tour, which is scheduled to commence in January 2022.[174][175] 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.[176]

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".[177] On May 13, he continued to hint at "The Dawn" with an Instagram caption, "The Dawn is Coming..."[178]

On May 11, 2021, Tesfaye performed "Save Your Tears" at the BRIT Awards. He also accepted his first Brit Award for International Male Solo Artist, presented to him by former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama.[179][180]

On May 24, 2021, Tesfaye performed "Save Your Tears" at the 2021 Billboard Music Awards. He was nominated for a record 16 awards, and won 10, including Top Artist and Top Hot 100 Song. When accepting his awards, Tesfaye said "the after hours are done, and the dawn is coming", quoting his album After Hours.[178] On May 28, 2021, Tesfaye performed the same song at the 2021 iHeartRadio Music Awards with Ariana Grande.

On June 25, 2021, rapper and singer Doja Cat released her single "You Right" featuring Tesfaye from her album Planet Her. The single's music video premiered on YouTube on the same day.[181]

On July 19, 2021, Canadian rapper Belly, who is signed to XO Records, announced single "Better Believe" featuring Tesfaye and Young Thug.[182] It was released on July 22.

Artistry

Tesfaye cites Michael Jackson, Prince, and R. Kelly as his main musical inspirations.[183] He has attributed Jackson's music as key in spurring him to be a singer, referencing the lyrics to "Dirty Diana" as an example.[21] He also said his high-flying vocal style was influenced by Ethiopian singers including Aster Aweke.[21] He grew up listening to a variety of music genres, including soul, hip hop, funk, indie rock, and post-punk.[184] 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."[185]

Tesfaye's songs are "built around a fogged, crepuscular production",[186] and feature slow tempos,[187] rumbling bass, and forlorn echoes.[22] Tesfaye often sings in a falsetto register,[188] 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.[189] 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.[190][191] Tesfaye often makes use of his head voice to build resonance to belt out strong high notes within the fifth octave.[191] His music incorporates samples that are unconventional in R&B production, including punk and alternative rock.[189] 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.[192] 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.[187] In concert, Tesfaye reappropriates his digitized productions with a suite-like arena rock aesthetic.[22]

His emotional, plaintive lyrics often express feelings of hurt and deal with subject matter such as sex,[186] drugs, and partying, especially in After Hours.[22] 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".[186] Paul MacInnes of The Guardian stated that he views Tesfaye's three mixtapes as "a rough trajectory of party, after-party and hangover".[193] 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".[22] Tesfaye has viewed that, by singing vulgar, ignorant lyrics in an elegant, sexy way, he is paying homage to R. Kelly and Prince.[194]

Tesfaye's musical style has been described as Contemporary R&B,[22][23][195] alternative R&B,[195][23][196] pop,[195][23] electropop,[195] and synth-pop.[197] 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.[196] 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".[22] Andy Kellman of AllMusic categorizes him as an "alternative R&B act".[23] While promoting his third album Starboy, Tesfaye also revealed Lana Del Rey,[198] David Bowie,[199] the Smiths, Bad Brains, Talking Heads, DeBarge,[200] 50 Cent, the Wu-Tang Clan,[201][202] and Eminem as influences.[203][204] 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..."[205]

Other ventures

Acting

Tesfaye is a cinephile, and has made numerous movie references in his music videos.[206][207] On August 30, 2019, during the Telluride Film Festival, he made his acting debut in the film Uncut Gems.[208] 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.[209] On May 4, he co-wrote and starred in an episode of American Dad!.[210] In July, he voiced three characters during the 200th episode of Robot Chicken.[211] On June 29, 2021, Tesfaye announced that he will be co-writing, executive producing, and starring in a new HBO television drama series titled The Idol, alongside Euphoria creator Sam Levinson and Tesfaye's producing partner Reza Fahim.[212]

Business

During the Kiss Land Fall Tour promoting Kiss Land, Tesfaye collaborated with condom-producing company ONE to give away limited-edition condoms at his shows.[213] They featured the visual identity of the new album with "Oxcy" – the album's mascot – printed on one side.[214]

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.[215] The e-cigarette featured the "xo" branding on the front, as well as having the ability to play "The Hills" when turned on.[216] The original PAX 2 cost $279.99; the limited edition e-cigarette cost $324.99.[217] 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.[218][219] 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."[219]

In 2016, Tesfaye announced a partnership with 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.[220] He also hosted several pop-up retail stores for the "Starboy: Limited Capsule" collection,[221] which were available across North America, including New York City, Los Angeles, and Toronto.[222] 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.[223][224]

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.[225][226] 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.[227] In May 2017, Tesfaye had a limited edition pop up sale for the "Starboy 2017 Limited Capsule Collection".[221] The collections were available in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami Beach, Houston, Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.[222] Tesfaye has collaborated with artists and designers such as Kidult, Alexander Wang[228] and Futura.[229]

In October 2017, after teasing on Instagram,[230] 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,[231] with the title character being a superhero modelled after himself.[232]

XO released a collection of apparel in collaboration with A Bathing Ape[233] in August 2018[234] and again in January 2020.[235]

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.[236]

On August 31, 2020, Tesfaye partnered with TD Bank to launch Black Hxouse, an entrepreneurial initiative.[237] On September 9, 2020, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a $221 million joint venture with Hxouse for Black Canadian entrepreneurs.[238]

Personal life

Tesfaye began dating model Bella Hadid in early 2015. The couple were first seen together in April at Coachella,[239][240] 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.[241] In November 2016, the couple broke up due to their conflicting schedules.[242] Tesfaye started dating actress and singer Selena Gomez in January 2017.[243] They moved in together temporarily later on in September,[244] but broke up a month later.[245] Tesfaye and Hadid got back together in May 2018,[246] and split once again in August 2019.[247]

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".[248] In December 2013, he said that drugs were a "crutch" for him when it came to writing music.[249] On social media, he typically suffixed his first name with "xo",[186] which is often used as an emoticon for hugs and kisses.[186] 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.[28][250] He later altered the handles on his social media to reflect his stage name in preparation for the release of Starboy.[251]

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.[21][252] 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".[21] He cut his hair in 2016, prior to the release of Starboy.[253]

In 2017, Tesfaye purchased a new mansion in Hidden Hills, California for $18.5 million, which he sold to Madonna in 2021 for $19.3 million.[16][254] In November 2019, he purchased an penthouse in Westwood, Los Angeles.[255][256] Since 2018, he has rented a penthouse apartment in New York City.[257] In his spare time, Tesfaye enjoys watching television[3] and playing video games.[258][259][260]

Despite having previously worked in the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Toronto,[261] in May 2016 Tesfaye and Belly cancelled an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! due to Donald Trump being present.[262][263][264][265]

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."[266]

Philanthropy

After being presented with a Bikila Award for Professional Excellence in 2014, Tesfaye donated US$50,000 to the University of Toronto to fund a new course on Ge'ez, the classic language of Ethiopia.[267] In August 2016, he funded a new Ethiopian Studies program at the University of Toronto.[268] 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.[269][270]

In December 2015, he worked with Ryan Seacrest's foundation to visit Children's Hospital in Atlanta.[271][272]

In June 2017, Tesfaye donated US$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.[273]

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.[274] With the profit, Tesfaye donated US$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 million to COVID-19 relief.[275]

In the context of media outlets reporting cases of police brutality, in July 2016, he expressed disdain, tweeting "blue lives murder".[276][277] In August 2016, Tesfaye donated $250,000 to Black Lives Matter.[278][268][279] In May 2020, in response to the murder of George Floyd, the George Floyd protests, and mass racial violence in the United States, Tesfaye donated US$500,000 to Black Lives Matter, Colin Kaepernick's Know Your Rights Camp, and the National Bail Out; he also posted on his official Instagram account to spread awareness.[280]

On August 7, 2020, Tesfaye held "the Weeknd Experience", an interactive virtual concert on social media application 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 US$300,000 to Global Aid for Lebanon in support of victims of the 2020 Beirut explosion.[281][282]

On November 2, 2020, 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.[283]

On April 4, 2021, Tesfaye announced that he would donate $1 million through the World Food Programme to relief efforts in Ethiopia for people affected by the Tigray War.[284] He met with the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, Samantha Power, about the crisis on June 9. 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.[285][286]

In May 2021, Tesfaye was among the celebrities expressing more solidarity for civilians who died during the 2021 Israel–Palestine crisis.[287][288]

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.[289][290] He pleaded no contest and was sentenced to 50 hours of community service.[291]

In January 2019, Tesfaye was criticized for lyrics in "Lost in the Fire". In the song, Tesfaye refers to a woman's same-sex attraction as "a phase" and then says he will "fuck her straight", which some critics have alleged as homophobic.[292][293]

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.[294] 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.[295]

In September 2018, Tesfaye and Daft Punk were sued for allegedly stealing the rhythm for "Starboy" from Yasminah, an Ethiopian poet, singer, and songwriter.[296] Tesfaye denied the allegations.[297]

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.[298] In September 2019, the plaintiffs filed an amended claim based on secondary infringement, which is still in litigation.[299][300]

In 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".[301] Later that year, Yeasayer voluntarily dismissed their lawsuit.[302]

Awards and nominations

Tesfaye has won three Grammy Awards, nineteen Billboard Music Awards, five American Music Awards, two MTV Video Music Awards, fifteen Juno Awards,[303] and has been nominated for one Academy Award.[13] In February 2015, he was awarded the Allan Slaight Award 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".[15]

Discography

Studio albums

Filmography

Film

Year Title Role Notes
2019 Uncut Gems Himself [304]

Television

Year Title Role Notes
2015
2016
2020
Saturday Night Live Himself (musical guest) 3 episodes:
"Amy Schumer/The Weeknd"[305]
"Margot Robbie/The Weeknd"[306]
"Daniel Craig/The Weeknd"[307]
2020 American Dad! Himself (voice) Episode: "A Starboy Is Born"[308][309]
Guest role; also co-writer[310][311]
2020 Robot Chicken Various voices Episode: "Endgame"[309]
Guest role[312]
TBA The Idol TBA In development[313]
Main role; also co-writer and executive producer[314]

Tours

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External links

This page was last edited on 24 July 2021, at 18:24
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