The Weeknd, aka Abel Tesfaye ( born February 16, 1990 ), first gained widespread exposure when hip hop artist Drake praised his music. In just over two years he had his first top 5 hit album Trilogy. Within five years he was a worldwide pop superstar with his first #1 pop hit “Can’t Feel My Face.”
Abel Makkonen Tesfaye was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. His parents were Ethiopian immigrants to Canada in the 1980s.
His mother worked a variety of jobs including as a nurse and a caterer. After Abel Tesfaye’s father left the family, he was cared for by his maternal grandmother. He grew up learning the Amharic language of Ethiopia and often attending an Ethiopian Orthodox church.
In his teenage years, Abel Tesfaye used a wide variety of drugs. He attended two high schools but did not graduate from either one. He adopted the stage name The Weeknd with inspiration from his own high school dropout story. The spelling modification was adopted to avoid trademark conflicts with the Canadian band The Weekend.
The Weeknd dated the fashion model Bella Hadid in 2015 and 2016. She appears in his “In the Night” music video and they walked the red carpet together at the 2016 Grammy Awards. By the end of 2016 reports indicated they broke up due to professional schedule conflicts.
One of the most notable elements in The Weeknd’s appearance is his hair.
He began to grow it out in 2011, and he told Rolling Stone that he was partially influenced by the hair style of the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. In 2016, with the release of his third non-compilation studio album Starboy, he cut his famous hair.
- 2012 – Trilogy – This compilation album is composed of three mixtapes released by The Weeknd in 2011 and three original songs. The collection received strong positive critical reviews. It reached #4 on the overall US album chart and hit the top of the R&B album chart.
- 2013 – Kiss Land – This is The Weeknd’s official debut studio album. It includes only one guest performer, Drake, who appears on the song “Live For.” The Weeknd explained in interviews that the album is about a world he created in his head. It is heavily influenced by film directors including John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, and Ridley Scott. He praised them as artists who know how to capture fear. He likens his album to a horror movie. Kiss Land earned positive reviews and reached #2 on the US album chart.
- 2015 – Beauty Behind the Madness – After The Weeknd climbed into the pop top 10 with his Ariana Grande collaboration “Love Me Harder” and his contribution to the soundtrack for Fifty Shades of Grey “Earned It,” anticipation was at a fever pitch for his second studio album. He did not disappoint observers. The two singles “The Hills” and “Can’t Feel My Face” roared on to the pop chart becoming The Weeknd’s first two #1 pop hits. Beauty Behind the Madnesstopped the album chart and earned a Grammy Award nomination for Album of the Year while taking home the award for Best Urban Contemporary Album.
- 2016 – Starboy – The Weeknd’s third studio album includes guest appearances from Daft Punk, Lana Del Rey, and Kendrick Lamar. It debuted at #1 on the US album chart selling more than 200,000 copies in its first week. According to The Weeknd, the album is influenced by Prince, The Smiths, and Talking Heads.
TOP HIT SINGLES
- 2014 – “Love Me Harder” with Ariana Grande – Republic Records put together this collaboration to promote their rising artists Ariana Grande and The Weeknd. With production from Max Martin’s Swedish pop team, the record was a major success climbing into the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and reaching #3 at mainstream pop radio.
- 2014 – “Earned It” – The Weeknd’s contribution to the soundtrack for the film Fifty Shades of Grey is the only song heard twice in the movie. It was a massive hit going to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and earning an Academy Award for Best Original Song. “Earned It” also won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance while being nominated for Best R&B Song.
- 2015 – “The Hills” – Many critics praised The Weeknd for returning to a darker sound on “The Hills” after his pop success with “Earned It.” It knocked his single “Can’t Feel My Face” out of #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 even though it was originally released two weeks earlier than the other single. “The Hills” spent six weeks at the top.
- 2015 – “Can’t Feel My Face” – This song was The Weeknd’s second hit collaboration with the Max Martin team after “Love Me Harder.” It is strongly influenced by Michael Jackson’s legendary work. “Can’t Feel My Face” hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also earned a Grammy Award nomination for Record of the Year.
- 2016 – “Starboy” – This is the title song and first single from The Weeknd’s third studio album. It details the impact of the celebrity lifestyle. Daft Punk co-wrote and co-produced the song. “Starboy” reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and hit the top 10 across adult pop, dance, and mainstream pop radio.
The Weeknd acknowledges a heavy artistic debt to the work of Michael Jackson. He says that it was Michael Jackson’s music that made him want to be a singer. Among his other influences are Aaliyah, Eminem, and the Talking Heads.
He has been given credit for helping expand R&B music by including influences from indie rock and electronic music. Some refer to his music as alternative R&B while others place him entirely outside of the R&B genre.
Lamb, Bill. “Biography of The Weeknd.” ThoughtCo, Jan. 30, 2017,.