The Weeknd

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The Weeknd
Picture of the Weeknd (Tesfaye). He is wearing a black suit with a bowtie, averts his gaze from the camera, and has a neutral expression on his face.The Weeknd at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival
BornAbel Makkonen Tesfaye
(1990-02-16) February 16, 1990
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Other names
  • The Noise
  • Kin Kane
Occupations
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • record producer
  • actor
  • businessman
Years active2009–present
Works
AwardsFull list
Musical career
Genres
Instruments
  • Vocals
  • keyboards
Labels
Websitetheweeknd.com
Signature

Abel Makkonen Tesfaye (Amharic: አቤል መኮንን ተስፋዬ; born February 16, 1990), known professionally as the Weeknd, is a Canadian singer-songwriter. He is known for his unconventional music production, artistic reinventions, and signature use of the falsetto register.

Tesfaye began releasing music anonymously in 2009. After co-founding the record label XO, he released three mixtapes—House of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes of Silence—in 2011, and gained recognition for his blend of contemporary and alternative R&B, as well as the mystery surrounding his identity. He signed with Republic Records in 2012 and reissued the mixtapes as part of the compilation album Trilogy (2012), and released his debut studio album, Kiss Land (2013) the following year. After a string of collaborations and film soundtrack contributions between 2013 and 2014, Tesfaye transitioned from alternative R&B in favor of a pop sound with his second and third studio albums, Beauty Behind the Madness (2015) and Starboy (2016), both of which debuted atop the US Billboard 200. The former yielded his first two Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles, "Can't Feel My Face" and "The Hills", while Starboy spawned two more: its title track (featuring Daft Punk), and after a remix with Ariana Grande, "Die for You".

He returned to alternative R&B for his debut extended play, My Dear Melancholy (2018), which included the US top-ten single "Call Out My Name". He explored the dream-pop and new wave genres with his fourth studio album, After Hours (2020), which spawned the record-setting single, "Blinding Lights", and two other US number-one singles—"Heartless" and "Save Your Tears". Tesfaye began exploring dance-pop, leading to his fifth album, Dawn FM (2022), which included the US top-ten single, "Take My Breath". In 2023, he co-created and starred in the HBO drama series The Idol, which was critically panned, although saw success in its accompanying soundtrack.

Tesfaye has sold over 75 million records, making him one of the world's best-selling artists. He holds several streaming and Billboard chart records, is the first Canadian artist to earn four diamond-certified singles from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and is the first artist to simultaneously hold the top three spots on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. "Blinding Lights" became the most-streamed song in Spotify history, the best-performing song in the Billboard Hot 100's history and the longest-charting song by a solo artist on the Billboard Hot 100. Tesfaye was listed by Time as one of the world's most influential people in 2020, and was dubbed the "world's most popular artist" by Guinness World Records in 2023. An advocate for racial equality and food security, he was appointed a World Food Programme Goodwill Ambassador in 2021. His accolades include four Grammy Awards, 20 Billboard Music Awards, 22 Juno Awards, six American Music Awards, three MTV Video Music Awards, a Latin Grammy Award and nominations for an Academy Award and a Primetime Emmy Award.

Life and career

Early life

Abel Makkonen Tesfaye was born on February 16, 1990, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The only child of Ethiopian Amhara immigrants Makkonen Tesfaye and Samrawit Hailu, who separated shortly after his birth, he was raised in the suburb of Scarborough by his mother and grandmother. Tesfaye's patronymic is spelled "Makkonen" instead of the traditional Ethiopian name "Makonnen". The similarity with the Finnish surname Makkonen is pure coincidence. The spelling of Tesfaye's patronymic might be the result of a typographic error or a new form of the traditional name. Tesfaye is proficient in Amharic, his native language acquired from his grandmother, and is also fluent in French, as he attended a French immersion school. He was further educated at West Hill Collegiate Institute and Birchmount Park Collegiate Institute.

At seventeen, Tesfaye dropped out of school and relocated to an apartment in the neighbourhood of Parkdale with two friends, one of whom is La Mar Taylor—his best friend and now creative director. Living a hedonistic lifestyle with his friends, Tesfaye adopted his stage name due to the time he left being on a weekend. He removed the last 'e' in 'weekend' to avoid trademark issues with the Canadian pop rock band the Weekend. He has also experienced homelessness and was incarcerated on several occasions during this time, which encouraged him to "smarten up, to focus". During this time, Tesfaye frequently engaged in drug use, including substances such as ketamine, cocaine, MDMA, magic mushrooms, and cough syrup, stating that drugs were a "crutch" for him when he wrote music. Before releasing music under his current stage name, he went under the alias 'Kin Kane', as part of a hip-hop duo called 'Bulletz n Nerdz', and was part of a production team called 'the Noise'.

2009–2011: Career beginnings

In August 2009, Tesfaye began anonymously releasing music on YouTube. The following year, he met the producer Jeremy Rose at a party. Rose asked Tesfaye if he wanted to work together as a dark R&B project after hearing him freestyle over an instrumental. After creating multiple songs and parting ways due to creative differences, Tesfaye was allowed to use the songs they made together under the condition that Rose received production credits. In December 2010, Tesfaye uploaded "What You Need", "Loft Music" and "The Morning" to YouTube under the username "xoxxxoooxo". His identity remained undisclosed initially. These songs gained attention online and were later acknowledged in a blog post by the rapper Drake. The songs subsequently received coverage from various media outlets, including Pitchfork and The New York Times.

In 2011, Tesfaye met music executives Wassim "Sal" Slaiby and Amir "Cash" Esmailian, with whom, along with Taylor, he founded the XO record label. On March 21, Tesfaye released his debut mixtape, House of Balloons, which featured production from Illangelo and Doc McKinney. The mixtape also included tracks produced by Rose, although he did not receive production credits. House of Balloons was named as one of the ten shortlisted nominees for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize.

Tesfaye started working with Drake in May 2011, eventually earning a spot at the latter's OVO Fest on July 31. In July 2011, Tesfaye held his first live performance at the Mod Club Theatre in Toronto. He also participated in concerts hosted by the Black Student Association at the University of Toronto. On August 18, Tesfaye released his second mixtape, Thursday, which garnered usually positive reviews. Tesfaye contributed to four songs on Drake's second studio album, Take Care, released on November 15, as a songwriter, producer and a featured artist on the album's seventh single, "Crew Love". He released his third mixtape, Echoes of Silence, on December 21. It was a longlisted nominee for the 2012 Polaris Music Prize.

2012–2014: Trilogy and Kiss Land

The Weeknd wearing a button-up, sleeveless shirt covering a normal black t-shirt. He is performing on a stage, singing into a microphone, with palm trees in the background.Tesfaye performing at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in 2012

In April 2012, Tesfaye began performing at more shows, such as the Coachella Festival, and two sold-out shows at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City. He also performed at various European festivals, such as Primavera Sound in Spain and Portugal and the Wireless Festival in the United Kingdom. In September, Tesfaye signed with Republic Records; XO was assumed as a subsidiary label. That same month, he embarked on his first concert tour, the Fall Tour, which included his own headlining shows and some opening shows for the English band Florence and the Machine. The tour was performed in North America in September to November 2012.

On November 13, 2012, Tesfaye released Trilogy, a compilation album comprising re-mixed and remastered versions of his 2011 mixtapes, and three additional tracks. The album debuted at number four on the US Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 86,000 copies, and has received platinum certifications from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and double-platinum from Music Canada. It also earned Tesfaye a nomination for the Sound of 2013 poll award by BBC.

The picture depicts Tesfaye performing, with the lights giving the image an orange environment. In the background, there is a drum set.Tesfaye performing at Massey Hall in October 2013

On May 17, 2013, Tesfaye released the title track to his debut studio album, Kiss Land and announced the album's release date of September 10. Upon its release, the album debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 with 96,000 copies and received generally positive reviews from music critics. Tesfaye further promoted the album with a fall tour that occured in North America and England in September to November 2013. Between November 6 and November 13, he served as an opening act for Justin Timberlake during The 20/20 Experience World Tour. He also contributed two songs to the soundtrack for the 2013 film The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, "Devil May Cry" and the soundtrack's second single, "Elastic Heart" with Sia and Diplo.

In February 2014, Tesfaye released a remix of "Drunk in Love" from Beyoncé's eponymous studio album, and Ty Dolla Sign's "Or Nah". He announced the King of the Fall Tour in June 2014, a 4-city tour of North America between September and October and was supported by Schoolboy Q and Jhené Aiko. In promotion of the tour, he released the songs "King of the Fall" and "Often" in July of that year. On August 25, Tesfaye collaborated with Ariana Grande on the song "Love Me Harder" from Grande's second studio album My Everything. It was later released on September 30 as the fourth single from the album, and peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100. 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. 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.

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". The single debuted at number twenty on the Billboard Hot 100, and peaked at number one, becoming Tesfaye's second number-one single, following "Can't Feel My Face", which had reached the number one position before it. In June 2019, "The Hills" was certified diamond by the RIAA, marking Tesfaye's first diamond-certified record.

In June 2015, after winning the Centric Award at the BET Awards, Tesfaye performed "Earned It" with Alicia Keys. 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. 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 first number-one song in the United States. The song was nominated for Record of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards. 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. He was also unveiled as one of the musical faces of the streaming service Apple Music, alongside Drake. During the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards, Apple debuted a two-part promotional commercial featuring Tesfaye, which had a guest appearance from John Travolta. In July, Tesfaye headlined the inaugural FVDED in the Park festival in Surrey, British Columbia. On June 29, Tesfaye was featured on Meek Mill's second studio album Dreams Worth More Than Money (2015), on the track "Pullin' Up".

Beauty Behind the Madness, Tesfaye's 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. It reached the top 10 in over ten countries and reached number one in Canada, Australia, Norway, and the United Kingdom. The album was promoted by Tesfaye headlining various summer music festivals, including Lollapalooza, the Hard Summer Music Festival, and the Bumbershoot Festival. He announced The Madness Fall Tour, his first large-scale tour across the United States, which began in November, and concluded in December. The album was certified double platinum in the U.S., and sold 1.5 million copies worldwide. It was the most-streamed album in 2015, with over 60 million streams, and was ranked on multiple lists of albums of the year. The three singles that preceded the album were certified platinum in the United States. The album won Best Urban Contemporary Album and was nominated for Album of the Year at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards.

On September 4, 2015, Tesfaye was featured on Travis Scott's debut album Rodeo, on the track "Pray 4 Love". On October 10, Tesfaye appeared on Saturday Night Live alongside actress Amy Schumer, performing as the show's musical guest. This was his first performance on the show as a solo artist, after appearing with Ariana Grande to perform "Love Me Harder". In November, he began his debut arena tour, The Madness Fall Tour, which included shows at Toronto's Air Canada Centre and New York City's Madison Square Garden. On December 18, Tesfaye was featured on Belly's single "Might Not" from his eighth mixtape Up For Days.

On February 14, 2016, Tesfaye was featured on Kanye West's seventh studio album The Life of Pablo on the track "FML". It marked their second collaboration, with West previously writing and producing on Tesfaye's track "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. On April 23, he was featured on Beyoncé's sixth studio album Lemonade on the track "6 Inch". 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).

Tesfaye performing at Lollapalooza Chile during the Starboy: Legend of the Fall Tour in 2017

In September 2016, Tesfaye announced that his third studio album, Starboy, would be released on November 25, and included collaborations with now-disbanded French electronic music duo Daft Punk. He released the album's title track, which featured the duo on September 21. The song debuted at number 40 on the Billboard Hot 100, and peaked at number one, making it Tesfaye's third number-one single. As of March 2023, the song is certified Diamond by the RIAA. Their second collaboration, "I Feel It Coming" was released on November 24. The single peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100. 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". 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". 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. As of January 2019, the album is certified triple platinum by the RIAA. The album won Best Urban Contemporary Album at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards, making it Tesfaye's second win in the category.

On February 17, 2017, the Weeknd began his fifth concert tour, called Starboy: Legend of the Fall Tour. The tour was in support of his third studio album Starboy (2016) and concluded on December 14, 2017. He visited the continents Europa, North- and South America and Oceania. On February 15, 2017, Tesfaye was featured on Nav's commercial debut single "Some Way", which also served as the lead single from his self-titled mixtape. On February 24, he appeared on Future's sixth studio album Hndrxx, on the song "Comin Out Strong". On April 19, Tesfaye appeared on the title track and second single from Lana Del Rey's fifth studio album. 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.

On March 30, 2018, Tesfaye released his debut extended play My Dear Melancholy, after news of the project were teased and leaked. The EP debuted at number one on the 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. On April 6, Tesfaye released the EP's lead single "Call Out My Name", which peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100. On April 13, he headlined the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival for the first time. He appeared in multiple festivals throughout 2018 to support the EP, most notably the Mawazine Festival in Morocco, Lollapalooza in both Chicago and Berlin, and a post-race concert at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

On June 6, 2018, Tesfaye announced his new Apple Music 1 radio show Memento Mori. The first episode was released two days later. He would later feature on two tracks from Travis Scott's third studio album, Astroworld, which were "Skeletons" and "Wake Up" on August 3, 2018. On November 21, he released his first greatest hits album The Weeknd in Japan. In support of the album and his EP My Dear Melancholy, he began his sixth concert tour, the Weeknd Asia Tour, a six-show tour of Asia during November and December. On January 11, 2019, Tesfaye was featured on Gesaffelstein's song "Lost in the Fire", the second single from his second studio album Hyperion. On April 18, he released "Power Is Power" with SZA and Travis Scott, the lead single from the Game of Thrones-inspired soundtrack.

On November 24, 2019, Tesfaye teased his single "Blinding Lights" through a Mercedes-Benz commercial. 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. "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. "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. It also became the longest charting song by a solo artist on the Hot 100 at 90 weeks, ending the week of September 11, 2021. 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. On January 1, 2023 it became the most streamed song on Spotify with 3.3 billion streams.

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. 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". Tesfaye released the album's third single "In Your Eyes" on March 24. The track peaked at number sixteen on the Billboard Hot 100.

Upon release, After Hours debuted atop the Billboard 200, earning 444,000 units, marking Tesfaye's fourth consecutive number-one album. It became the most streamed R&B album of all-time, surpassing Tesfaye's own Starboy. 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. The deluxe version of After Hours was released on March 29, 2020, and contained the tracks "Nothing Compares", "Missed You" and "Final Lullaby".

On August 7, 2020, Tesfaye was featured on the late Juice Wrld's single "Smile" from his first posthumous album Legends Never Die. 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. 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. On November 5, he appeared on the remix of Maluma's "Hawái", was nominated for Best Urban Fusion/Performance at the 22nd Annual Latin Grammy Awards. On December 10, he performed at iHeartRadio's Jingle Ball.

2021–2023: Dawn FM and The Idol

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 Fully Loaded: God's Country (2019).

Tesfaye headlined the Super Bowl LV halftime show on February 7, 2021, becoming the first Canadian solo artist to headline the show. He reportedly spent US$7 million of his own money on the Super Bowl performance. Reviews of the performance were generally positive. 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. 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.

Over 2021, Tesfaye reissued his three mixtapes in its authentic form with the original mixes and samples to celebrate the tenth anniversary of their release, with House of Balloons coming first in March 2021. Thursday's reissue followed in August 2021, and in December, Echoes of Silence was reissued.

On April 23, Tesfaye released a remix of "Save Your Tears" with Ariana Grande, marking their third collaboration. The remix launched the song to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 on the chart dated May 8, 2021, becoming both artists' sixth number one hit. He later began to tease new music in the same month. When asked about a new album during an interview with Variety, he explained that "if the last record is the After Hours of the night, then The Dawn is coming". 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 first lady of the United States Michelle Obama. 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". 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. On July 22, he appeared on Belly's single "Better Believe" with Young Thug from his third studio album See You Next Wednesday.

The Weeknd in August 2021

On August 2, 2021, Tesfaye released a snippet of new music on social media. He appeared on the cover of the September 2021 issue of GQ, marking the magazine's first global publication. 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. Later that month, he appeared on Kanye West's tenth studio album Donda on the track "Hurricane", which won Best Melodic Rap Performance at the 64th Annual Grammy Awards.

On October 4, 2021, during an episode of Memento Mori, Tesfaye revealed that his fifth studio album was complete and that he was waiting on a "couple characters that are key to the narrative." On October 18, Tesfaye announced that his upcoming tour, originally titled the After Hours Tour, would be held entirely in stadiums due to arena constraints and was scheduled to commence in July 2022. The tour was renamed as the After Hours til Dawn Tour, and would incorporate elements from his fourth and fifth studio albums.

On October 22, 2021, Tesfaye appeared on Swedish House Mafia's single "Moth to a Flame" from their debut studio album Paradise Again. On November 5, he appeared on Post Malone's single "One Right Now" from his fourth studio album Twelve Carat Toothache. On November 11, he was featured on Rosalía's single "La Fama" from her third studio album Motomami. On December 16, Tesfaye was featured on FKA Twigs' single "Tears in the Club" from her debut mixtape Caprisongs. The next day, on December 17, he was featured on Aaliyah's single "Poison" from her posthumous album Unstoppable.

Tesfaye released his fifth studio album Dawn FM on January 7, 2022. Upon release, the album debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 with 148,000 units, marking Tesfaye's eighth top ten entry and his second non-consecutive album to debut at number two. He also broke the record for the most simultaneous entries for a male soloist on the Billboard Global 200, with twenty-four songs on the chart. In addition to "Take My Breath", Dawn FM was supported by the singles "Sacrifice" and "Out of Time". February 26, Tesfaye premiered The Dawn FM Experience, a television music special in partnership with Amazon Prime Video.

The Weeknd's haunted house as part of Universal's Halloween Horror Nights.

On March 20, the Weeknd played in an episode of the cartoon The Simpsons. On April 18, he headlined the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival for the second time, performing alongside Swedish House Mafia. On July 26, 2022, the Weeknd announced that he would host a haunted house at Universal Studios Florida and Hollywood, as part of Universal's Halloween Horror Nights hosted every Halloween. Tesfaye appeared on the song "Creepin'" from Metro Boomin's album, Heroes & Villains, on December 2, 2022. His song "Nothing Is Lost (You Give Me Strength)," made for the film Avatar: The Way of Water's official soundtrack, was released on December 16, 2022.

On February 24, 2023, following months-long renewed interest in and virality of the Weeknd's 2016 song "Die for You," which began charting in 2022 and reached a new peak of 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 6 years after its release, a remix of the song featuring Ariana Grande was released. The remix marked their fourth collaboration. In the Billboard Hot 100 issue dated March 11, 2023, the remix reached the top of the chart, becoming both artists' seventh number one hit. On February 27, 2023, in the wake of the remix's success, the Weeknd became the first artist to surpass 100 million monthly listeners on Spotify.

On March 3, 2023, the Weeknd released his first live album, titled Live at SoFi Stadium. It featured recordings from his HBO concert film of the same name, showcasing the last concert of the North American leg of his After Hours til Dawn Tour at SoFi Stadium. He subsequently featured on four songs — "Artificial Intelligence," "Defame Moi," "More Coke!!," and "Emotionless" — from Mike Dean's album 4:23, released on April 29, 2023. In May 2023, the Weeknd stated that he was intending to retire the moniker of "the Weeknd" in favor of performing under his birth name, or adopting a new pseudonym altogether. He explained that his upcoming album would most likely serve as his "final hurrah" under the name.

The Weeknd co-created the HBO drama series The Idol with Sam Levinson, and stars in the show alongside Lily-Rose Depp. The series premiered at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival out of competition, where it received significant controversy for its graphic depiction of onscreen nudity and sexual content. The series debuted to widespread negative reviews from critics. The Hollywood Reporter stated that the series confirms the allegations that "Instead of subtly skewering the misogynistic and predatory nature of the business, The Idol became a forbidden love story — the stuff of a toxic man's fantasy", and called it "regressive rather than transgressive". He received negative reviews for his acting, with critic Robert Daniels of The Playlist writing, "Tesfaye is also a terrible actor. He lacks the comfortability, the gravitas, charisma, and charm to increase the viability of Jocelyn being attracted to him. In most scenes, Tesfaye either hides under the cover of dim lighting, obtrusive coverage, or re-recorded dialogue dubbed into several scenes." On August 28, 2023, HBO announced it had cancelled The Idol after one season.

On June 8, 2023, the Weeknd announced series of EPs featuring music from The Idol. Originally intended as a soundtrack album, each EP was released following the premiere of each episode of the show, which featured collaborations with Future, Playboi Carti, Madonna, Lil Baby, Lily-Rose Depp, and Jennie from the South Korean girl group Blackpink. Later in June he received an invitation from the Academy to become a member.

On July 21, Tesfaye appeared on Travis Scott's lead single "K-pop" from his fourth studio album Utopia, and later appeared on another track on Scott's album, "Circus Maximus". Tesfaye appeared on Diddy's single "Another One of Me" on September 15, which he called his "final feature", despite releasing multiple collaborations with Metro Boomin and Future in 2024.

On December 2, 2023, Fortnite announced that the Weeknd would be featured as the headlining artist for its Fortnite Festival gamemode and outfits of him would become available to play with on December 9. His outfits have three different variants of himself; the red suit seen throughout the promotional material for After Hours, the outfit from his 2022 Coachella performance, and two of the costumes that he was seen wearing during the After Hours til Dawn Tour.

2024: Upcoming album

Tesfaye first teased news of a follow-up album to Dawn FM in 2022, telling his fans: " wonder... did you know you're experiencing a new trilogy?" via Twitter. On January 8, 2024, he further teased an upcoming album, posting pictures of his last two albums and a question mark on his social media. On March 22, 2024, he appeared on the track "Young Metro" from Future and Metro Boomin's collaborative album, We Don't Trust You as well as several tracks on Future and Metro Boomin's We Still Don't Trust You album.

Artistry

Influences

Tesfaye cites Michael Jackson, Prince, and R. Kelly as his main musical inspirations. He has attributed Jackson's music as key in spurring him to be a singer, referencing the lyrics to "Dirty Diana" as an example. His high-flying vocal style was influenced by Ethiopian singers such as Aster Aweke. He grew up listening to a variety of music genres, including soul, hip hop, funk, indie rock, and post-punk. Tesfaye is heavily influenced by 1980s music, and credits the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (2002) for "opening my eyes" to the music of that era. "I've always had an admiration for the era before I was born", he said in an interview for Billboard. "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."

Tesfaye has named Deftones as one of his influences during the making of House of Balloons, Thursday and Echoes of Silence. He has also cited Lana Del Rey, David Bowie, the Smiths, Bad Brains, Talking Heads, DeBarge, 50 Cent, Wu-Tang Clan, and Eminem as influences and inspirations. When Daft Punk announced their split in 2021, Tesfaye praised them during an interview with Variety, saying: "Those guys are one of the reasons I make music, so I can't even compare them to other people..."

Production and songwriting

Tesfaye's songs are "built around a fogged, crepuscular production", and feature slow tempos, rumbling bass, and forlorn echoes. His music incorporates samples that are unconventional in R&B production, including punk, shoegaze, dream pop and alternative rock. 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", sampling artists such as Beach House, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Aaliyah. 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. In concert, Tesfaye reappropriates his digitized productions with a suite-like arena rock aesthetic.

His emotional, plaintive lyrics often express feelings of hurt and deal with subject matter such as sex, drugs, and partying; this is seen especially in After Hours and House of Balloons. 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." Paul MacInnes of The Guardian stated that he views Tesfaye's three mixtapes as "a rough trajectory of party, after-party and hangover." 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 coming down and feeling vulnerable." Tesfaye has stated that by singing vulgar, ignorant lyrics in an elegant, sexy way, he is "paying homage to R Kelly, and even Prince to a certain extent."

Voice and music style

Tesfaye often sings in a falsetto register. 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. 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♯ (G♯5), with a natural tessitura within the upper fourth octave. Tesfaye often makes use of his head voice to build resonance to belt out strong high notes within the fifth octave. Tesfaye's vocals have a recognizable Ethiopian characteristic. Hannah Giogis of Pitchfork notes that "his trademark vibrato, the characteristically pained whine that pervades much of Tesfaye's music, draws from a long Ethiopian musical legacy of tortured pining. Imbuing our voices with the shaky pain of loss—romantic or otherwise—is a hallmark of Ethiopian musical tradition. Tesfaye, with his staccato wails and aching nostalgia, is a young, North American addition to a dynasty of melodramatic Ethiopian singers." In 2023, Rolling Stone ranked the Weeknd at number 110 on its list of the 200 Greatest Singers of All Time.

Tesfaye's discography spans pop, R&B, hip hop, dance, alternative, and new wave genres. His work is generally categorized as alternative R&B, due to his contributions in broadening the genre's musical palette to incorporate indie and electronic styles. Mistry writes that he "will be obsequiously praised as the future of R&B music—because Tesfaye is a black singer, not because he's making quantifiable, canonical R&B." Tesfaye shared his thoughts on the primary label during an interview with Time in 2015, stating: "Alternative R&B is in my soul. It's not going anywhere. When I put out songs from House of Balloons in 2010, people said I made R&B cool again. I'm assuming that's when the label was created. I feel honored that a good part of today's music is inspired by it, consciously or subconsciously. The only way I could have done that was to be ambitious and grand." Tesfaye's first three mixtapes; House of Balloons, Thursday and Echoes of Silence, are alternative R&B projects that draw on dream pop, post-punk and trip hop, amongst others. His debut studio album Kiss Land is categorized as R&B and dark wave. His next three albums, Beauty Behind the Madness, Starboy and After Hours, are considered R&B and pop; with Starboy utilizing heavy trap influences, and After Hours drawing on new wave and dream pop influences. Tesfaye's fifth studio album Dawn FM explores dance-pop and synth-pop genres.

Controversies

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

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

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". Later that year, Yeasayer voluntarily dismissed their lawsuit. 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 substantially similar, if not identical" to their 2015 track "Vibeking".

Allegations of homophobic lyrics

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". Tesfaye subtly addressed the controversy in the song "Snowchild" from After Hours, with the lines "Every month another accusation / Only thing I'm phobic of is failing".

The Idol allegations

On March 1, 2023, Rolling Stone released a lengthy exposé on the working conditions and set life of the HBO drama series The Idol, a series in which Tesfaye stars, co-created and co-wrote alongside Sam Levinson. The series received significant controversy for its graphic depiction of sexual content which critics labeled "torture porn". The series was originally directed by Amy Seimetz who suddenly "exited with roughly 80 percent of the six-episode series finished". The series saw a major creative overhaul, as it was reported that Tesfaye felt the show had too much of a "female perspective". Over 14 crew members alleged a toxic work environment with one adding "What I signed up for was a dark satire of fame and the fame model in the 21st century..." however, "It went from satire to the thing it was satirizing." Sources alleged that Seimetz's approach to the story was scrapped and the show became "like any rape fantasy that any toxic man would have in the show — and then the woman comes back for more because it makes her music better".

In response to the allegations, Tesfaye mocked the reporting on his Twitter account, posting a clip of the characters in the show discussing the magazine saying, "Rolling Stone? Aren't they a little irrelevant?". Tesfaye posted the comment in the caption: "@Rolling Stone did we upset you?". Tesfaye's response received widespread criticism. In an interview with Vanity Fair, he continued to dismiss the reporting, saying that logistical difficulties with Seimetz's schedule and production timelines, as well as a desire not to rush his first show, propelled the overhaul.

Other ventures

Acting

Tesfaye is a cinephile, and has made numerous movie references in his music videos and teasers. On August 30, 2019, during the Telluride Film Festival, he made his acting debut in the film Uncut Gems.

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. On May 4, he co-wrote and starred in an episode of American Dad!. In July, he voiced three characters during the 200th episode of Robot Chicken.

On June 29, 2021, Tesfaye announced that he would be co-creating, co-writing, executive producing and starring in the HBO television drama series The Idol, alongside his producing partner Reza Fahim and Euphoria creator Sam Levinson. On March 20, 2022, Tesfaye voiced two characters during an episode of The Simpsons.

In 2023, it was announced that Tesfaye is co-writing a film with Trey Edward Shults, who is attached to direct; Tesfaye is also set to star in the film, alongside Jenna Ortega and Barry Keoghan.

Business

In 2013, Tesfaye collaborated with condom company ONE to give away limited-edition condoms at his shows during the Kiss Land Fall Tour. In November 2015, he partnered with electronic vaporizer company Pax Labs to release a limited edition vaporizer. He also collaborated with fashion designer Alexander Wang for an apparel collection. In 2016, Tesfaye became a creative collaborator and global brand ambassador for the clothing brand Puma. With the partnership, he released numerous capsule collections and hosted several pop-up retail stores.

In 2017, Tesfaye partnered with retail company H&M for their men's collection. He cut ties with the company in 2018, following a racist incident within the company. In July 2018, Tesfaye collaborated with Marvel Comics to release a comic book inspired by his third studio album Starboy. In August, he released an apparel collection in collaboration with A Bathing Ape. A second collection was released in January 2020.

In April 2019, Tesfaye became an owner and global ambassador of the esports company OverActive Media, who owns the Splyce and Overwatch League team Toronto Defiant.

On August 31, 2020, Tesfaye partnered with TD Bank to launch Black HXOUSE, an entrepreneurial initiative within the incubator HXOUSE, where he serves as a sleeping partner. On September 9, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a CA$221,000,000 joint venture with HXOUSE for Black Canadian entrepreneurs.

In March 2021, Tesfaye auctioned a collection of visual artwork and an unreleased song in the form of a non-fungible token (NFT) on Nifty Gateway. In October, he joined football player Tom Brady's NFT platform Autograph as a member of their board of directors.

Philanthropy

After being presented with a Bikila Award for Professional Excellence in 2014, Tesfaye donated CA$50,000 to the University of Toronto to fund a new course on Ge'ez, the classic language of Ethiopia. In May 2016, during Orthodox Easter, Tesfaye donated CA$50,000 to the St. Mary Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in Toronto, Canada, a church he attended growing up. In August 2016, he funded a new Ethiopian studies program at the University of Toronto.

In June 2017, Tesfaye donated US$100,000 to the Suubi Health Center, a maternity and children's medical facility in Budondo, Uganda. He 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.

In April 2020, Tesfaye launched a line of non-medical face masks with all of the proceeds going to the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund, a campaign launched by the Recording Academy to help musicians affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, Tesfaye donated US$500,000 to MusiCares and CA$500,000 to the Scarborough Health Network.

In August 2016, Tesfaye donated US$250,000 to the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation following numerous reports of police brutality in the United States. 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. He then urged other music executives, major record labels, and streaming services to donate to the cause as well.

On August 7, 2020, Tesfaye held the "Weeknd Experience", an interactive virtual concert on the social media platform TikTok that drew two million total viewers, including 275,000 concurrent viewers. The concert raised over US$350,000 for the Equal Justice Initiative. He also donated US$300,000 to Global Aid for Lebanon in support of victims of the Beirut explosion. On November 2, the University of Toronto announced that it was able to reach and surpass its fundraising goal of CA$500,000 for its Ethiopic program, which included a CA$30,000 donation from Tesfaye. In May 2021, he was among the celebrities expressing more solidarity for civilians who died during the 2021 Israel–Palestine crisis. On September 23, Tesfaye was honored with the Quincy Jones Humanitarian Award at the inaugural Music in Action Awards, presented by the Black Music Action Coalition.

On January 9, 2024, Tesfaye partnered with the non-profit organization School on Wheels Inc. to support more than 1,000 students experiencing homelessness.

WFP ambassadorship

On April 4, 2021, Tesfaye announced a US$1,000,000 donation through the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to relief efforts in Ethiopia for people affected by the Tigray War. On June 9, he met with the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, Samantha Power, to discuss the humanitarian crisis of the Tigray War. Tesfaye was appointed as a UN Goodwill Ambassador for the World Food Programme on October 7. On March 3, 2022, he partnered with the WFP to launch the XO Humanitarian Fund. Through the fund, Tesfaye was to donate US$1 from every ticket sold at his After Hours til Dawn Tour, in addition to a US$500,000 donation, to the WFP. $2,500,000 from the XO Humanitarian Fund was directed toward WFP's humanitarian response efforts in the Gaza Strip, providing four million emergency meals for those affected by the 2023 Israel–Hamas war. On April 29th 2024, Tesfaye announced he will donate another $2 million to Palestine as loaves of bread.

Personal life

Tesfaye prefers to keep his personal life out of the public eye. In the beginning of his career, he refrained from participating in interviews and instead chose to communicate via Twitter, which he attributed to shyness and insecurities. He prefers to be interviewed only in rare situations. Tesfaye was raised as an Ethiopian Orthodox. When asked whether or not he was still religious, he stated to Variety in 2020, "I dunno...everything is a test, and if you are religious or spiritual, you have to go through things."

From April 2015 to August 2019, Tesfaye was in an on-again, off-again relationship with American model Bella Hadid. She starred in the music video for his single "In the Night" in December 2015. He dated American singer-actress Selena Gomez from January to October 2017. Both of the relationships received widespread media attention, and were the topic of tabloid speculation. Tesfaye has been in a relationship with Saudi-born disc jockey Simi Khadra since February 2022; publications have noted that unlike his previous romances, he has kept his relationship with Khadra private from the press.

Tesfaye's hairstyle, which has been described as one of his most recognizable traits, has been claimed to be partly inspired by American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. 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". He cut his hair in 2016, prior to the release of Starboy. On social media, Tesfaye typically suffixed his first name with "xo", which is often used as an emoticon for hugs and kisses. According to The Guardian's Hermione Hoby, this was his intention, though others believe it was a reference to his recreational use of ecstasy and oxycodone. He later altered the handles on his social media to reflect his stage name in preparation for the release of Starboy. In August 2021, during a cover story with GQ, he described himself as being "sober lite", meaning that he has stopped using 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."

In January 2015, Tesfaye was arrested for allegedly punching a police officer in Las Vegas after being taken into an elevator to break up a fight. He pleaded no contest and was sentenced to complete fifty hours of community service.

As of August 2021, Tesfaye was residing in Bel Air, Los Angeles. In 2017, he purchased a home in Hidden Hills, California for $18.5 million, which he sold to Madonna in 2021 for $19.3 million. Tesfaye previously lived in penthouses in Westwood, Los Angeles and New York City.

In April 2023, Tesfaye revealed that he has ADHD.

Accolades

Tesfaye has won four Grammy Awards, a Latin Grammy Award, twenty Billboard Music Awards, six American Music Awards, three MTV Video Music Awards and twenty-two Juno Awards. He has also received nominations for an Academy Award and a Primetime Emmy Award.

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".

Toronto mayor John Tory announced that the city would observe February 7, 2021 as "The Weeknd Day" to commemorate Tesfaye's Super Bowl halftime performance.

Discography

Studio albums

Filmography

Tours

Headlining

Supporting

Touring members

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Ethiopians do not use surnames but rather their father's first name as their family name. Makkonen 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.
  3. ^ Multiple sources:
  4. ^ Multiple sources:
  5. ^ During his early performances in 2011, respective tours in 2012 and 2013 prior to the Kiss Land Fall Tour, he had other guitar, bass, and keyboard players, as well as two female backup singers; these former members' names are unknown.
  6. ^ Jones was absent during the European and Latin American legs of the After Hours til Dawn Tour (2023).

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External links

The Weeknd at Wikipedia's sister projects