Abel Tesfaye (born February 16, 1990), known by his stage name The Weeknd (pronounced 'The Weekend'), is a Canadian PBR&B singer, songwriter, and record producer. In late 2010, Tesfaye anonymously uploaded several songs to YouTube under the name "The Weeknd". He released three nine-track mixtapes throughout 2011: House of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes of Silence, which were critically acclaimed. The following year, he released a compilation album, Trilogy, consisting of remastered versions of the mixtape material and three additional songs. It was released under Republic Records and his own label XO. In 2013, he released his debut studio album Kiss Land, which was supported by the singles "Kiss Land", and "Live For".
The Weeknd has received praise from several music publications, including Pitchfork, MTV, BET, Rolling Stone, XXL and The Source. MTV's John Norris has dubbed him the "songbird of his generation" and the "best musical talent since Michael Jackson".
The Weeknd was born Abel Tesfaye on February 16, 1990 in Scarborough, Ontario. He attended Samuel Hearne Middle school. He is of Ethiopian descent. He grew up listening to a variety of music genres, including soul, quiet storm, hip hop, funk, indie rock, and post-punk. Since Tesfaye's father was never around when he was growing up, and his mother was constantly working, his grandmother took care of him most of his young life. Because of this, Tesfaye speaks fluent Amharic; it was the first language he learned.
Tesfaye says he adopted the stage name, "The Weeknd," after dropping out of high school at the age of 17 and, along with a fellow crew-member, "left one weekend and never came home." The spelling was modified to avoid copyright issues with a Canadian band already named the Weekend.
In Toronto, Tesfaye met producer Jeremy Rose, who had an idea for a dark R&B musical project called "The Weekend". After trying to pitch the idea to musician Curtis Santiago, Rose played one of his instrumentals for Tesfaye, who freestyled over it, and they began working on an album. He produced three songs—"What You Need", "Loft Music", and "The Morning"—and others that Tesfaye rapped on, which Rose ultimately scrapped. Rose let Tesfaye keep the tracks he had produced under the condition that he would ultimately be credited for them. However, in December 2010, Tesfaye uploaded "What You Need", "Loft Music", and "The Morning" to YouTube under the name "the Weeknd", though his identity was initially unknown. The songs drew attention online through word of mouth, including a blog featuring the songs posted by Toronto-based rapper Drake, who also helped generate interest in the Weeknd. They subsequently received coverage from outlets such as Pitchfork Media and The New York Times.
On March 21, 2011, Tesfaye released the nine-track mixtape House of Balloons for free through his website. It featured production by Illangelo and Doc McKinney, although it did not credit Rose for his tracks. House of Balloons was met with critical acclaim, and was named as one of ten shortlisted nominees for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize.
In July, The Weeknd embarked on a tour and delivered his first performance at the Mod Club in Toronto. The hour-and-a-half long performance created buzz about him. His next performance took place at Toronto’s Molson Canadian Amphitheatre. He collaborated with rapper Drake and appeared as one of the special guests to Drake's second Annual OVO Fest on July 31, 2011. During the summer, the press noted that The Weeknd refused to participate in interviews and chose to only communicate via Twitter. His second mixtape Thursday was released on August 18, 2011, as a free digital download from The Weeknd's website, and was well received by critics. The Weeknd's third mixtape, titled Echoes of Silence, was released on December 21, 2011. Upon this release, the three 2011 mixtapes were collectively known as the Balloons Trilogy, each receiving critical acclaim and growing Tesfaye's fanbase.
In April 2012, The Weeknd began his US tour by performing at the Coachella Festival. He and his band visited various major cities, and culminated in New York, where two sold-out shows were positively reviewed by Rolling Stone. Tesfaye and his tour band continued in major European festivals, including the Primavera Sound Festivals in Spain and Portugal, Wireless Festival in London, plus concerts in Paris and Brussels. At his debut UK show in London, he covered Michael Jackson's "Dirty Diana" in front of an audience which included Katy Perry and Florence Welch. In June, it was reported that the Balloons Trilogy had been downloaded 8 million times and that it would be formally released later in the year. The Weeknd performing at Massey Hall October 17, 2013.
In September 2012, the Weeknd signed with Republic Records in a joint venture with his own imprint label XO. The compilation album Trilogy was released in November, consisting of remastered versions of the mixtapes and three additional songs. It also officially credited Rose as a producer and writer on three songs from House of Balloons. Trilogy charted at No. 5 on the Canadian Albums Chart, and No. 4 on the US Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 86,000 copies. Shortly after in December, the BBC announced that the Weeknd had been nominated for the Sound of 2013 poll. In May 2013, Trilogy was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America and double platinum by Music Canada.
On May 16, 2013, the Weeknd premiered the title track to his debut studio album Kiss Land, which he said will be released on September 10. It was also promoted by the singles "Belong to the World", "Live For" featuring Drake and the Weeknd's The Fall tour beginning in September. Kiss Land received generally positive reviews from music critics. Kiss Land debuted at number two on the US Billboard 200, selling 96,000 copies, just two thousand copies short of Keith Urban's Fuse, which took the number one spot that week.
The Weeknd also appeared on the soundtrack to The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, contributing "Devil May Cry" and featuring on "Elastic Heart" by Sia, the second single from the soundtrack. In February 2014, The Weeknd remixed the Beyoncé single "Drunk in Love." The remix was more of a cover, as The Weeknd tweaked the beat to fit better with his version of the song, that is told through the male perspective.
On June 26, 2014, The Weeknd announced he will be headlining the King of the Fall tour, essentially a mini-tour across America in September and October 2014. ScHoolboy Q and Jhené Aiko were confirmed as support acts. The announcement came the day after The Weeknd released his new song, "Often", on SoundCloud, leading to speculation that the tour will unveil more new material from him. On July 20, 2014, The Weeknd released another track titled "King of the Fall" to promote his upcoming tour, which started in September. On September 30, 2014, the song "Love Me Harder" was released which is a duet between The Weeknd and Ariana Grande, the song went on to peak at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. On December 23, 2014, he released "Earned It", the song was released as a single from the 2015 film Fifty Shades of Grey, which has peaked at number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.
On May 27, 2015, he released a music video for a new song "The Hills" which is rumoured to be the first single from his upcoming second studio album. The song debuted at number 20 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The Weeknd's songs are "built around a fogged, crepuscular production", and feature slow tempos, rumbling bass, and forlorn echoes. The Weeknd sings in a falsetto register, and exhibits a pleading, anxious 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. His music incorporates samples that are unconventional in R&B production, including punk and alternative rock. Marc Hogan of Spin says that The Weeknd'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. The Weeknd worked mostly with producers Illangelo and Doc McKinney, whom Pitchfork Media's Ian Cohen credits with developing "a state-of-the-art R&B template" with The Weeknd. In concert, The Weeknd reappropriates their 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. Hermoine Hoby of The Guardian characterizes the Weeknd'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." The Guardian 's Paul MacInnes interprets The Weeknd's trilogy of 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 [he is] coming down and feeling vulnerable." The Weeknd viewed that, by singing vulgar, ignorant lyrics in an elegant, sexy way, he is paying homage to R. Kelly and to some degree Prince.
Music journalists associate The Weeknd with PBR&B, an emerging wave of recording artists whose music expands on the sound and sensibility of R&B. 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". Allmusic's Andy Kellman categorizes him as an "alternative R&B act". Prior to his major label deal, The Weeknd withheld his identity and maintained an enigmatic, shadowy persona while releasing his mixtapes online. On social media outlets such as Twitter, he suffixed his name with "xo". According to Hoby, it is meant as an emoticon for "a kiss and a hug", while VH1's Zara Golden said that it is instead a reference to his recreational use of ecstasy and oxycodone.
Discography: Trilogy (2012)
Kiss Land (2013)
Beauty Behind the Madness (2015)