Abel Makkonen Tesfaye (born February 16, 1990) a.k.a. The Weeknd is a Canadian singer-songwriter and record producer.
In 2010, he uploaded several songs to YouTube under the name "The Weeknd"note . Their dark, atmospheric R&B sound and the complete anonymity with which they were released started generating buzz and mystery alike around Tesfaye. A trilogy of nine-track mixtapes were released the next year to rapturous reception and cosigns from the likes of Drake, Katy Perry and Florence Welch.
Just under a year after the final mixtape released, Tesfaye signed with Republic Records in a joint venture with his own imprint "XO"note , his first release as a signed artist being an Updated Re-release of the mixtape trilogy. He would continue his career with more official studio works, collaborations with other artists, and work for films and TV both in music (Fifty Shades of Grey, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Game of Thrones), acting (Uncut Gems, Robot Chicken), and a little bit of both (American Dad!).
- Kiss Land (2013)
- Beauty Behind the Madness (2015)
- Starboy (2016)
- After Hours (2020)
- Dawn FM (2022)
- House Of Balloons (2011)
- Thursday (2011)
- Echoes of Silence (2011)
- My Dear Melancholy, (2018)
- Trilogy (his first three mixtapes packaged together) (2012)
I can't see my tropes when I'm with you, but I love it:
- Actor Allusion: At the end of the "Out of Time" video, the old Abel comes to on an operating table just in time to watch as a surgeon — aka the DJ who narrates Dawn FM, played by Jim Carrey — places a blank full-face mask on him. The special significance of this is that The Mask was the first movie Abel saw, at the age of four, and directly inspired an interest in music and film that became his career.
- Actually Pretty Funny: At one point, he had his Instagram avatar set as a particularly (and possibly intentionally)...bad piece of fanart.
- Adam Westing: Appears in Uncut Gems as an obnoxious diva version of himself.
- Animal Motifs: A black panther symbolizes him in the "Mania" short film.
- Animated Music Video: The video for "Snowchild", created by D'ART Shtajio studio, the first Black-owned animation studio in Japan, gives an illustrated look at Tesfayes many personas, from his Trilogy beginnings in Toronto through his Starboy era in Hollywood, up until the red-suited, debauched character associated with After Hours.
- The video for the "Save Your Tears" remix featuring Ariana Grande features Abel building a life-size Ari robot in an empty factory.
- Arc Symbol: The cross icon in all his promo for Starboy symbolizes his new musical direction. He wears a cross necklace and wields a gigantic neon one to destroy his Big Fancy House.
- Artistic License Physics: The title Echoes of Silence, most likely meant to be symbolic. Though it sounds very cool, it is impossible to produce an echo without sound.
- Audience Participation Song: "House of Balloons / Glass Table Girls."
- Ax-Crazy: He usually plays this persona in his music videos, especially in "Blinding Lights". The music video begins with him making a Slasher Smile. Then he starts driving maniacally.
- Continues in the video for "In Your Eyes", whose story follows directly on from "Blinding Lights". He goes after a woman with knife in hand and murderous intent... Though in the end she gets the better of him, cutting his head off with a fire axe.
- The two bandaged-up women from the "Too Late" music video, which follows the above. After finding Abel's severed head on the road, they take it home to admire, and lure a male stripper to their residence to kill him and sew it onto his body.
- Bank Robbery: The "False Alarm" video, in which he's a participant. The violent heist goes really wrong, culminating in the gang getting killed off one by one, the kidnapped and bloodied hostage escaping with the money, and a severely injured Abel shooting himself in the head.
- Bilingual Bonus:
- "The Hills" ends with him singing a few lines in Amharic, his first language.
- The chorus for "Montreal" is completely in Canadian French.
- Bastard Boyfriend: He usually plays this role in the Trilogy mixtapes, as he enters various on-off relationships and leads his girls into his same drug addictions. This comes to a head in Kiss Land, and he culminates by protesting such proclivities in After Hours.
- Bizarrchitecture: The strange structure in the video for "Secrets", with endless staircases, synchronized elevators, and long hallways.
- Bloody Smile: The music video for "Blinding Lights" starts with the protagonist after a beatup with Blood from the Mouth but laughing. Then it's shown that he went to Las Vegas and met a Japanese singer which was his Love Interest, being beaten by The Mafia after that. But anyway he got happy after that, seeing him not just smiling and laughing but dancing in the middle of the streets.
- Boastful Rap: "Starboy" is a deconstruction, as the lyrics point out all the luxuries and women that fame has brought him, but the lyrics also imply that Abel feels Lonely at the Top and indulges in his luxuries to distract from this. With the words "Look what you've done" in the refrain, it becomes clear that all those things were given to him when he doesn't know if he wants it all. Made more explicit in the video, where the "new" Weeknd kills off his "old" self and destroys the awards, fancy suits, and chandeliers that he owns.
- The opening and closing tracks of Starboy both feature Daft Punk.
- In addition, the video for "I Feel It Coming" ends with the same static sound that opens the title track.
- Cool Car: He owns a decent amount of these, more notably a McLaren P1 and a Lamborghini Aventador SV Roadster (which are both namedropped in "Starboy", and also appear in the music video), and a tuned Mazda FC RX-7 - which appears in the music video for "Party Monster".
- Concept Album: All of his albums and mixtapes thus far have been heavily conceptual, most notably his three mixtapes, which deal with a downward spiral into drug addiction and manipulative relationships.
- Content Warnings: The music video for "False Alarm" opens with a parental advisory warning for graphic violence and that it's very much Not Safe for Work.
- Cover Version: "D.D." from Echoes of Silence is a cover of his favorite song of all time, "Dirty Diana" by Michael Jackson.
- Darker and Edgier: In comparison to most other R&B artists, in that his lyrics reference the bad side of drug use and gratuitous sex and evokes a dark and moody tone. His music videos also tend to take on similarly dark imagery, like "Pretty" and "The Hills". Starboy is this when compared to the Lighter and Softer Beauty Behind the Madness, with the "False Alarm" video being his darkest video yet. After Hours further ups the ante, with lyrics that almost feel like self-testimonies of his destructive behavior from the Trilogy mixtape series.
- Deliberately Monochrome: House of Balloons and Beauty Behind the Madness. My Dear Melancholy, is also this, but with black & red instead of black & white.
- Destructive Romance: A lot of his songs touch on the darker side of romantic relationships and sexual encounters.
- Death by Cameo: The "False Alarm" music video features Damion Poitier, who's well known as the heister Chains in the heisting / bank robbing game PAYDAY 2. He gets shot in the back, while escaping the bank, and collapses in the van.
- Dissonant Serenity: The music video for the Eminem remix of "The Hills" features an eerily calm and disaffected Abel just walking by as comets rain down and Stuff Blowing Up all around him. The flames eventually consume him as he steps into his limo.
- Double Entendre: His signature, "XO", can refer either to the "hugs and kisses" emoticon or ecstasy and oxycodone.
- Downer Ending:
- The final song in the Trilogy mixtape series, "Echoes of Silence", ends things on a very dark note (which is saying something given the rest of the mixtapes' content). However, the Trilogy compilation itself ends with the bonus track "Here Comes The Sun", which is much less bleak.
- Kiss Land's themes of loneliness in the context of Abel's chaotic celebrity life culminate in its final track, "Tears in the Rain", in which he laments that he has destroyed his relationship, every woman he meets will only want him for his luxuries and no one will ever truly love him, and he's better off "[dying] with a smile" to hide his pain from the world.
- The video for "False Alarm" ends with all the robbers dead, most of the money lost, the getaway van destroyed and the hostage leaving an injured and impaled Abel (the only robber left) behind in said destroyed getaway van with the only bag of money left. Alone, injured, unable to move and hearing police sirens approaching his location, he shoots himself in the head.
- "Until I Bleed Out", the final song on After Hoursnote , caps off the album with Abel's character overdosing and almost dying as a result. However, he realizes that no matter how hard he tries to snap out of his drug-taking habits, they just come back to him even harder than before, and so he definitively surrenders to his addictions. This is ultimately subverted, though, as Dawn FM shows that his character gets better and starts a new chapter in his life.
- Dream Team:
- Enlisted Labrinth, Lana Del Rey and Ed Sheeran for songs on Beauty Behind The Madness. (He would return the favor for Lana and appears on the title track of her album Lust For Life.)
- His Trilogy mixtape series features two guest artists: Drake in "The Zone" and Juicy J in "Same Old Song".
- He has provided vocals for the vocal mix of Kavinsky's "Odd Look". The mix also appears as a bonus track in Kiss Land.
- Eminem and Nicki Minaj contribute a verse to remixes of "The Hills".
- "Starboy" and "I Feel It Coming" were produced by/feature Daft Punk. In the music video for "Starboy", they can be seen in a portrait hanging in the house as it's being trashed, and their likenesses appear in space in the video for "I Feel It Coming". They themselves make an appearance in the video's stinger. Future, Lana and Kendrick Lamar also make appearances in the album.
- My Dear Melancholy has production credits from Skrillex (on "Wasted Times") and Guy-Man (on "Hurt You").
- He has occasionally collaborated with Gesaffelstein, more precisely on "I Was Never There", "Hurt You" and "Lost In The Fire". The latter appears on Gesaffelstein's sophomore album, Hyperion.
- After Hours features co-production from the likes of Kevin Parker and Oneohtrix Point Never.
- Dawn FM features Quincy Jones, Max Martin, Swedish House Mafia, Calvin Harris, Bruce Johnston of The Beach Boys, Lil Wayne, Tyler the Creator, and Jim Carrey as the voice of the radio DJ.
- Drugs Are Bad: About 95%, if not all of his lyrical content are about drug addiction and the really bad effects of taking so much.
- Dual-Meaning Chorus: "I Feel It Coming" can either be read as being about the guy in the song feeling how great of a couple him and this girl are going to be once they start dating or about how the guy can sense that he and/or his girlfriend is about to orgasm.
- Epic Rocking: Quite a few of his songs are over six minutes long, with his longest, "Gone", clocking in at over 8 minutes. This is much less prevalent from Beauty Behind the Madness onwards, although said album's closer - "Angel" clocks in at 6:17. After Hours instead has the title track and "Escape From LA" which are both around 6 minutes long as well.
- The Faceless: When he started. It took a surprisingly long time for him to show his face in a video, and Kiss Land is the first album where we see his face.
- Facial Horror: His character in the "Save Your Tears" music video has had heavy plastic surgery done on his face to the point that he becomes this. It's so shockingly convincing that many viewers thought he legitimately got his face done like that.
- Fading into the Next Song: Often. Specific examples would be "The Party And The After Party leading into "Coming Down". "Outside" leads to "XO/The Host", which leads to "Initiation".
- From Kiss Land, "Adaptation" to "Love in the Sky" to "Belong to the World", though they don't necessarily "fade" into each other as much as transition seamlessly into one another.
- From Starboy, "Party Monster" to "False Alarm" to "Reminder", and "True Colors" to "Stargirl Interlude".
- From After Hours, "Hardest To Love" to "Scared To Live". Also, the outro from "Faith" does a direct transition to the next song on the album, "Blinding Lights".
- From Dawn FM, "How Do I Make You Love Me?" to "Take My Breath", and "Best Friends" → "Is There Someone Else?" → "Starry Eyes".
- Fake Radio Show Album: Dawn FM uses this approach as a metaphor for purgatory (hence the album's name), featuring fellow Canadian star Jim Carrey as the DJ of Toronto's CIDC-FM.
- First-Person Perspective: The "False Alarm" video is a violent Bank Robbery from his perspective.
- Freestyle Version: He did a freestyle version in 2014, freestyling over Lorde's "Royals", Ty Dolla $ign's "Or Nah" and Beyoncé's "Drunk in Love" (although he significantly altered the beat for this one). His freestyle of "Or Nah" became so popular that it was featured in the official remix of the song.
- Green-Eyed Epiphany: "Wasted Times" from My Dear Melancholy, can be interpreted as one of these.What they got that I ain't got, 'cause I got a lot
Don't make me run up on 'em, got me blowing up the spot
'Cause I ain't got no business catching feelings anyway
I ain't got no business catching feelings
- Guest-Star Party Member: After Hours had no features, which makes the collaborators on Dawn FM extra special. Tyler the Creator and Lil Wayne both show up for verses, and on top of voicing the DJ, Jim Carrey gets his own spoken word segment on the closing track "Phantom Regret by Jim".
- Hell-Bent for Leather: He's dressed from head to toe in leather in the music video "Starboy", as he kills off the version of himself from the Beauty Behind The Madness .
- Important Haircut: The Starboy era is most characterized by him getting a lot of his hair cut off, representing the next stage in his music.
- I Can't Believe a Guy Like You Would Notice Me: One of the themes of After Hours is Abel's on-and-off relationship with Bella Hadid, and how he considers himself unworthy of her love. This is most apparent in songs like "Alone Again", "Hardest to Love" and "Heartless".
- Intercourse with You: Given he's an R'n'B singer, this should be par for the course. However, unlike most other artists in the genre, his sexual escapades are not idealized at all.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: "Moth To A Flame", his collaborative track with Swedish House Mafia, directly connects to one of the thematics in After Hours, namely his relationship with Bella Hadid; this time, however, Abel outright states that she should not be in a relationship with a toxic womanizer like him and admits she deserves far better than him.
- Lighter and Softer: He admits to invoking this for Beauty Behind The Madness in his desire to experiment with his musical direction. "Can't Feel My Face" is slightly more upbeat in melody, and drug references are toned down. Of course, the music video consists of him being set on fire. In addition, the narrators of later songs are considerably more sympathetic than the predatory narrators portrayed in earlier songs. "In the Night" is probably the most obvious. Of course, that song is about the horrific, traumatic aftereffects of rape, so it's not like he's making bubblegum pop...
- "I Feel It Coming" is a departure from the much darker tone of Starboy, talking about a budding relationship in a positive light.
- Even though it still features themes of drug abuse and toxic relationships, Dawn FM has a much more positive outlook than any of his previous works, especially if one takes Abel's Character Development into account.
- Love Is a Drug: Inverted with "Can't Feel My Face", where he compares his addiction to a relationship, complete with him addressing his drug(s) as "she".
- Lyrical Dissonance: His songs all have dream-like productions about the dark side of hedonism. A notable example is one of his biggest hits "Can't Feel My Face", a bouncy, funky, upbeat-sounding song with lyrics about drug addiction.
- An interesting example is "Pretty," an ominous dirge with seemingly innocuous lyrics about forgiving one's unfaithful ex. The music video clarifies the song's intent.
- "House of Balloons" sounds pretty cheerful if you take the chorus at face value ("this is a happy house"). The verses, meanwhile, seem to depict an addict being taunted by his or her own addiction.
- A form of subversion occurs in "Starboy". The lyrics are, on the surface, a Boastful Rap mostly just about how awesome being rich is ("Made your whole year in a week", "Pockets overweight, gettin' hefty", "I'm a motherfuckin' Starboy", etc.), but the music is sombre, almost tragic. However, some of the lines subtly imply undertones of hollowness ("We don't pray for love, we just pray for cars"), regret ("Look what you've done"), and possible references to trademark drug addiction (specifically painkillers in "I kill any pain"), meaning it to a certain extent fits as a Deconstruction of that lifestyle.
- "Gasoline" is a musically bright, up-tempo pastiche of early Depeche Mode in which the narrator describes being in a state of existential despair, thanks his partner for watching over him to make sure he doesnt die in his sleep from a drug overdose, and then tells them to simply wrap up his body and burn it if he dies anyway.
- Man on Fire: "Can't Feel My Face" features Abel as a performer who's having a bad time during a gig at some nightclub. One of the patrons throws his Zippo lighter at the performer, setting him on fire. Everyone likes the performance better after that.
- Melting-Film Effect: Used in the music video for "Can't Feel My Face". Abel is set on fire on stage during the final moments of the video, and when he leaves the bar where he was performing, still in flames, the video ends with the film itself burning too.
- The Mentor: Drake was perceived to be this for a while, before The Weeknd started his own label as opposed to signing with Drake's. Some interpreted some Drake lyrics to be dissing him, although Drizzy is featured on one of his first singles on his own label ("Live For").
- The Muse: My Dear Melancholy is heavily speculated to be based on the relationship with his ex-girlfriends Bella Hadid and Selena Gomez.
- My God, What Have I Done?: One of the overarching themes of After Hours is Abel's regret of his self-destructive, hedonistic actions in the Trilogy days and his ultimately meaningless quest to own up to his mistakes.
- Mythology Gag: His Super Bowl 2021 halftime show concluded with his biggest hit at the time, "Blinding Lights", but not before segueing from a small marching band-style reprise of "House of Balloons", off of his very first mixtape.
- New Sound Album: Dawn FM further fleshes out the synthpop and synthwave elements heard in a few songs of After Hours, eschewing his usual R&B sound almost completely.
- Non-Appearing Title: "Party Monster". Most people assume it's called "Don't Even Know Her Name".
- Not Safe for Work: The majority of his music videos features some nudity and a lot of violence. "Pretty" and "Twenty-Eight" are under YouTube's age barrier, and "False Alarm" has a Content Warning for very graphic violence.
- Obligatory Bondage Song:
- "Can't Feel My Face" has been interpreted as this.
- "Take My Breath" is more or less explicitly about breath play, a/k/a autoerotic asphyxiation.
- Off with His Head!: In the climax of the "In Your Eyes" music video, Abel gets beheaded by the girl he followed into the elevator in the After Hours short film.
- Refrain from Assuming:
- "The Hills" is not called "Half Past Five", "Feel Me" or "The Real Me".
- "Party Monster" you might mistake for "Don't Even Know Her Name" or "A Girl Who Gon Really Understand".
- Rhyming with Itself:
- From "The Morning":I warn them like discretion
Why these niggas testing?
Always fucking testing
Why these niggas testing?
- The chorus from "Heartless":Why? 'Cause I'm heartless
And I'm back to my ways 'cause I'm heartless
All this money and this pain got me heartless
Low life for life 'cause I'm heartless
Said I'm heartless
Tryna be a better man, but I'm heartless
Never be a weddin' plan for the heartless
Low life for life 'cause I'm heartless
- From "The Morning":
- Running Gag: Guess how often he mentions his age in his songs? This even extends to his collaboration with Drake, "Crew Love", where the hook was written when he was 20.
- Sampling: Often of very weird songs for an R&B singer — a lot of his samples come from punk and indie rock songs.
- An example being "House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls", which samples "Happy House" by Siouxie and the Banshees.
- The original mixtape version of "Coming Down" features a sample from Fate/stay night, of all things. However, due to copyright issues, it doesn't appear on the Trilogy version of the song.
- "Belong to the World" notably samples "Machinegun", although Portishead refused his permission to do so, and he equally refused to give them any writing credits, insisting it was "not a sample".
- "Secrets" heavily samples "Pale Shelter" by Tears for Fears, almost to the point where he's singing new lyrics over the original beat (although the hooks and riffs have been moved around slightly and created through a synthesizer).
- "Out of Time" from Dawn FM is built around a sample of "Midnight Pretenders" by Tomoko Aran.
- Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll: His music touches upon the bad version, often sounding like a drug-induced and paranoid haze.
- "Heaven or Las Vegas" is named for a Cocteau Twins album.
- The "False Alarm" music video has a blink and you'll miss it cameo from, rather appropriately, Damion Poitier, who voices Chains in the heisting / bank robbing game PAYDAY 2.
- "Montreal" interpolates lines from Laisse tomber les filles.
- "The Birds Pt. 1" is usually accompanied live by clips from the Hitchcock film.
- "Kiss Land" was originally released in rough form as "John Carpenter", probably due to the heavy use of synthesisers that were a big part of Carpenter's films.
- One of the songs from After Hours is named Escape from L.A..
- "Faith" from After Hours makes references to "Purple Rain", "Losing My Religion", and "Sicko Mode".
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Legends of the Fall are nodded to in "Starboy".
- "Less than Zero" from Dawn FM is named in an obvious Bret Easton Ellis homage.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: While there are a couple of more idealistic songs in his discography like "I Feel It Coming", most of his material is deep in the cynical end. Dawn FM on the other hand largely sits on the idealistic end of the scale.
- The Sociopath: He can come off as this in some of his songs, more so in his Trilogy album.
- Speed Sex: "Love in the Sky", where he says his lifestyle does not afford him the luxury of any other kind of sex—and besides, he doesn't know how to do it slowly even if he tried.
- That Man Is Dead: The music video for "Starboy" features him returning to his Darker and Edgier roots by opening with him killing off his dreadlocked Beauty Behind The Madness persona and then violently trashing his Big Fancy House afterwards.
- Three Chords and the Truth: The entirety of "Can't Feel My Face" is based on three chords.
- Title-Only Chorus: "False Alarm".
- Trash the Set: In the "Starboy" video, after killing off his Beauty Behind The Madness persona, Abel goes full out, destroying everything inside the house, including his awards.
- Unbroken First-Person Perspective: The "False Alarm" music video is shot like something out of PAYDAY: The Heist or PAYDAY 2, using the POV of a bank robber. In the end we do see that person's face when he looks into a mirror as he lays dying.
- Wolverine Publicity: Starting to get this, after being quite publicity-shy (see above) previously.