The Weeknd

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The Weeknd
The Weeknd performing at Djakarta Warehouse Project in December 2018 (cropped).jpg
The Weeknd performing at Djakarta Warehouse Project in December 2018
Born
Abel Makkonen Tesfaye

(1990-02-16) 16 February 1990 (age 29)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
ResidenceHidden Hills, California, U.S.[1]
Occupation
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • record producer
Years active2010–present
Musical career
Genres
InstrumentsVocals
Labels
Associated acts
Websitetheweeknd.com

Abel Makkonen Tesfaye (born 16 February 1990), better known by his stage name The Weeknd, is a Canadian singer, songwriter, and record producer.[2] Tesfaye has helped broadened R&B's musical palette to incorporate indie and electronic styles; his work has been categorized with the alternative R&B tag.[3][4]

Tesfaye anonymously uploaded several songs to YouTube under the name "The Weeknd" in 2010 and released the critically acclaimed mixtapes House of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes of Silence in 2011.[5] The mixtapes were later remastered and rereleased on the compilation album Trilogy (2012), after he signed with Republic Records and created his own record label XO.[source?] Tesfaye has had three No. 1 releases (Beauty Behind the Madness in 2015, Starboy in 2016, and My Dear Melancholy in 2018) and a No. 2 release (Kiss Land in 2013) on the US Billboard 200. He has earned eight top-ten entries on the Billboard Hot 100: "Love Me Harder" with Ariana Grande; "Earned It"; "I Feel It Coming"; "Pray for Me" with Kendrick Lamar; "Call Out My Name"; and the number one singles "The Hills", "Can't Feel My Face", and "Starboy". In 2015, Tesfaye became the first artist to simultaneously hold the top three positions on the Billboard Hot R&B Songs chart with "Can't Feel My Face", "Earned It", and "The Hills".

Tesfaye has won three Grammy Awards, eight Billboard Music Awards, two American Music Awards, nine Juno Awards,[6] and has been nominated for one Academy Award.[7]

Early life[change | change source]

Tesfaye was born on 16 February 1990 in Toronto, Ontario, and was raised in the district of Scarborough, in the city's east end.[8][9] He is the only child of Makkonen and Samra Tesfaye, who were Ethiopian immigrants to Canada in the late 1980s.[8][10][11][12]

During Tesfaye's youth, his mother worked several jobs in order to support the family, including jobs as a nurse and caterer. This was alongside attending night school to learn English.[12] Tesfaye's father abandoned the family when he was a toddler, resulting in Tesfaye being cared for by his grandmother and mother.[13] While living with his grandmother Tesfaye learned Amharic, which he also spoke with his mother,[14] and attended Ethiopian Orthodox church services.[12][15] Tesfaye stated this in an interview regarding his father, "I saw him vaguely when I was six, and then again when I was 11 or 12, and he had a new family and kids. I don't even know where he lived — I'd see him for, like, a night. I'm sure he's a great guy. I never judged him. He wasn't abusive; he wasn't an alcoholic; he wasn't an asshole. He just wasn't there."[12]

Tesfaye self-describes his teenage years as the film "Kids without the AIDS". Tesfaye states he began smoking marijuana at age 11, and later moved on to harder drugs. Tesfaye claims he often shoplifted to supplement his use of ecstasy, oxycodone, xanax, cocaine, psilocybin, and ketamine.[8][16]

Tesfaye attended West Hill Collegiate Institute and Birchmount Park Collegiate Institute in Scarborough, Toronto, from which he did not graduate, leaving altogether in 2007.,[17][18] after which Tesfaye also left home. Tesfaye moved to the Parkdale neighborhood of Toronto. Tesfaye has credited his stage name as being inspired by his high school dropout status, claiming "after [he] left one weekend and never came home", though producer Jeremy Rose claims the name was his idea.[19] The spelling was modified in order to avoid trademark issues with the Canadian band The Weekend.[8][15]

Career[change | change source]

2010–2011: Career beginnings[change | change source]

Tesfaye met Jeremy Rose in 2010, a producer who had an idea for a dark R&B musical project. After initially trying to pitch the idea to musician Curtis Santiago, Rose played one of his instrumentals for Tesfaye, who freestyle rapped over it. This led to the two collaborating on an album. Rose produced three songs – "What You Need", "Loft Music", and "The Morning" – and others that Tesfaye had rapped on, which were ultimately scrapped. Rose let Tesfaye keep the tracks he had produced under the condition that he would ultimately be credited for them.[19] In December 2010, Tesfaye uploaded "What You Need", "Loft Music" and "The Morning" to YouTube under his stage name,[20] although his identity was initially unknown.[21][22] The songs drew some attention online, and were later included in a blog post from Drake.[19][23] The songs subsequently received coverage from various media outlets, including Pitchfork and The New York Times. Before adopting the stage name "The Weeknd", he worked under the aliasses of "The Noise" and "Kin Kane".[10]

On 21 March 2011, Tesfaye self-released his debut mixtape House of Balloons.[24][25] The mixtape included production from Canadian producers Illangelo and Doc McKinney, and included the tracks produced by Rose, although, he did not receive production credits.[19] House of Balloons was met with critical acclaim.[26] It was named as one of ten shortlisted nominees for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize.[27]

Tesfaye began a tour of Toronto, with his first live performance at the city's Mod Club venue. Drake was in attendance to view the performance, which ran for a total of ninety minutes.[28] Drake approached Tesfaye and described a potential musical collaboration between the pair. Tesfaye accompanied Drake at his various shows, often performing as the opening act for shows scheduled at the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, as well as appearing at the second annual OVO Fest in July.[29] Over the summer of 2011, Tesfaye contributed to five songs on Drake's Take Care, both as a writer and a featured artist.[source?]

Tesfaye refrained from participating in interviews, choosing to communicate via Twitter, after the album was released.[30] This was credited[who?] as a successful advertising tactic for Tesfaye second mixtape Thursday, which was released on 18 August 2011. It was also subject to acclaim from music critics[who?].[31] Tesfaye's third mixtape Echoes of Silence was released on 21 December 2011, a year after his debut singles, and also saw positive critical[who?] reception.[31][32]

Following this release, the three mixtapes were collectively known as the Balloons Trilogy,[33] and saw Tesfaye receiving offers from various record labels[who?].[34]

2012–2014: Trilogy and Kiss Land[change | change source]

Tesfaye performing at Coachella in 2012.

In April 2012, Tesfaye began his first tour of the United States, with a performance at the Coachella Festival.[35] The tour culminated in New York with back-to-back sold-out shows, which were positively reviewed by Rolling Stone.[35][36] Tesfaye expanded his tour to accompany Europe, performing at various European festivals, including the Primavera Sound Festivals in Spain and Portugal,[37] and the Wireless Festival in London.[38] Covering "Dirty Diana" at his performance in London, he received positive responses from both Katy Perry and Florence Welch, who noted the singer's ability to successfully undertake a complex song.[39] In June, the Balloons Trilogy was revealed to have been downloaded over 8 million times, which allowed Tesfaye to initiate formal commercial release of the projects later that year.[39]

In September 2012, Tesfaye signed with Republic Records in a joint venture with his own imprint XO.[40] The compilation album for the mixtapes entitled Trilogy, was released two months later, and consisted of several remastered versions of songs, as well as three additional ones.[41][better source needed] It also officially credited Rose as a producer and writer on the three songs from House of Balloons for which he did not initially receive credit.[42] Trilogy charted at number four on the U.S. Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 86,000 copies. It also debuted at number five on the Canadian Albums Chart, with similar sales.[43][44] Trilogy was later certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and double-platinum by Music Canada in May 2013.[45][46] He had also gained a nomination for the Sound of 2013 poll award by the BBC a week later.[47]

Tesfaye performing at Massey Hall in October 2013.

On 16 May 2013, Tesfaye premiered the title track to his debut studio album Kiss Land,[48] and announced the album's release date as 10 September.[49] The album was later promoted by the singles "Belong to the World" and "Live For" featuring Drake, as well as with Tesfaye embarking on The Fall tour a week prior to the album's release.[50][51] Upon release, Kiss Land debuted at number two on the U.S. Billboard 200, selling 96,000 copies.[52] It was later confirmed to have sold over 273,000 copies in the United States, as well as receiving generally positive reviews from music critics.[53]

Tesfaye appeared on the 20/20 Experience World Tour, joining headline act Justin Timberlake for six shows.[54] This was three weeks prior to his contributions to the soundtrack for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013), contributing "Devil May Cry", as well as featuring on Sia's "Elastic Heart". The latter proved to be the second lead single from the soundtrack.[55][56]

In 2014, Tesfaye remixed "Drunk in Love", a single by Beyoncé from her eponymous studio album. Retaining the theme and concept of the song, he detailed the synopsis through the perspective of a male.[57] The remix was well-received, and came days prior to the announcement of Tesfaye's first headlining tour, entitled the King of the Fall tour. The tour was held across the United States in September and October, and saw Schoolboy Q and Jhené Aiko as supporting acts.[58] This oversaw his release of the single "Often", leading to speculation it was the first single from his second studio album.[59] He later collaborated with Ariana Grande on a duet titled "Love Me Harder", which peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100.[60] Days later, he released "Earned It", a single from Fifty Shades of Grey (2015). This marked his second contribution to a movie, and peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100.

2015: Beauty Behind the Madness[change | change source]

After Tesfaye won the Centric Award at the 2015 BET Awards, he performed "Earned It" with Alicia Keys, as well as debuting the song "The Hills".[61][62] "The Hills" was later released for digital download, and debuted at number twenty on the Billboard Hot 100. The single later went on to top the chart, marking Tesfaye's first number-one single.[63] The single was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

A further three songs were leaked online in the corresponding days.[64] On 8 June, "Can't Feel My Face", one of the leaked tracks, was released as a second single, following its performance at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference.[65] The song debuted at number twenty-four on the Billboard Hot 100, and reached number-one on the Hot 100, making it his third top 10 hit, and his second number-one hit in the United States.[66][67] He occupied all three slots on Billboard's Hot R&B Songs chart simultaneously with the aforementioned singles, becoming the first artist in history to accomplish this.[68] He headlined FVDED in the Park, a festival in Surrey, British Columbia.[69] Tesfaye was unveiled as one of the musical faces of the streaming service Apple Music, a position he harbored with frequent collaborator Drake.[70] During the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards, Apple debuted a two-part promotional commercial featuring Tesfaye, which had a guest appearance from John Travolta.[71] It was revealed that his second studio album would be titled Beauty Behind the Madness.

Beauty Behind the Madness was released on 28 August 2015, and debuted atop the Billboard 200, earning 412,000 album equivalent units in its first week.[72][73] It reached the top 10 in over ten countries, as well as reaching number one in Canada, Australia, Norway, and the United Kingdom.[74][75] The album was promoted by Tesfaye headlining various summer music festivals, including Lollapalooza, the Hard Summer Music Festival, and the Bumbershoot Festival.[76] He announced his first large-scale tour across the United States, which began in November, and concluded in December.[77][78] The album went double platinum in the US, and sold 1.5 million copies worldwide.[79] It was reported to be the most-streamed album throughout 2015, with over 60 million,[80] as well as being ranked on multiple lists concerned with detailing albums of the year.[81]

On 8 September, Tesfaye became the first male artist to have simultaneously held the top three spots on the Billboard Hot R&B Songs chart, with the three singles that preceded the release of his album. They all went platinum in the United States.[82] After engaging in multiple musical collaborations with Belly,[83] Meek Mill,[84] and Travis Scott,[85][86] Tesfaye was featured on "Low Life", the triple platinum single from Future's fourth studio album.[87] Tesfaye appeared on Saturday Night Live alongside actress Amy Schumer, performing as the show's musical guest on 10 October.[88] This was his first performance on the show as a solo artist, after appearing with Ariana Grande to perform "Love Me Harder".[85]

2016–present: Starboy and My Dear Melancholy[change | change source]

Tesfaye performing in August 2017

Tesfaye was featured on "FML", a track on Kanye West's The Life of Pablo.[89] It marked the second collaboration between the pair, with West providing production and writing on "Tell Your Friends" from Beauty Behind the Madness. Tesfaye appeared on "6 Inch", the fifth song on Beyoncé's Lemonade. He was announced by Spotify as being among the top five most streamed artists in their first year partnering with Sony to provide the streaming service on the PlayStation 4.[90][91]

On 24 August, in preparation for his third studio album, Republic Records executive vice-president Wendy Goldstein confirmed Tesfaye began collaborations with French electronic music duo Daft Punk.[92] A month later, the album's title was announced as Starboy, and had a release date of 25 November.[93] He released the album's title track, which features Daft Punk. The song received platinum certification and went to number one in the United States, as well as in various other countries.[94] A second collaboration with Daft Punk, entitled "I Feel It Coming", was released a week proceeding the album's release, alongside the solo efforts "Party Monster" and "False Alarm".[95] Tesfaye returned to Saturday Night Live on 10 October, performing "Starboy" and "False Alarm". He released a 12-minute short film, titled M A N I A, on 23 November.[96] 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".[97]

In 2017, Tesfaye appeared on Future's sixth studio album,[98] as well as on the debut single from Nav, who was signed by XO in January.[99] He became the first feature utilized by Lana Del Rey, appearing on "Lust for Life", the title track and second single from her fifth studio album.[100] He was featured on French Montana's "A Lie", the third single from his second album Jungle Rules and on Cashmere Cat's debut single "Wild Love" from his album 9. He appeared on the Virgil Abloh-directed music video for Lil Uzi Vert's "XO Tour Llif3" alongside XO signee Nav. He was later featured on Lil Uzi Vert's debut album and Gucci Mane's eleventh studio album Mr. Davis. He gained a Grammy nomination for Best Urban Contemporary Album at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards for Starboy and ended up winning the award.

On 31 January 2018, Top Dawg Entertainment revealed the full tracklist of the Kendrick Lamar-curated Black Panther soundtrack album[101] with Tesfaye featured on one of the tracks, "Pray for Me". On 2 February 2018, it was released as the soundtrack's third single. This marks the second collaboration between Tesfaye and Lamar, after the song "Sidewalks" on the Starboy album.

On 27 March 2018, Tesfaye began publicity for a new official release in an Instagram post.[102][103][104] On 29 March 2018, a billboard appeared in London, England promoting a possible album titled My Dear Melancholy,[105] and on the same day the project was officially announced.[106] On 30 March 2018, the extended play My Dear Melancholy, was released.[107]

Discography[change | change source]

Studio albums[change | change source]

List of studio albums, with selected chart positions and sales figures
Title Album details Peak chart positions Sales Certifications
CAN
[108]
AUS
[109]
DEN
[110]
FRA
[111]
GER
[112]
NLD
[113]
NZ
[114]
SWE
[115]
UK
[116]
US
[117]
Kiss Land 2 30 6 93 93 52 60 12 2
Beauty Behind the Madness
  • Released: August 28, 2015[122]
  • Label: XO, Republic
  • Formats: CD, LP, digital download, cassette
1 1 2 6 7 2 2 1 1 1
Starboy
  • Released: November 25, 2016[130]
  • Label: XO, Republic
  • Formats: CD, LP, digital download
1 1 1 10 10 3 5 1 5 1
"—" denotes a album that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Extended plays[change | change source]

List of extended plays, with selected details
Title EP details Peak chart positions Sales Certifications
CAN
[108]
AUS
[109]
DEN
[110]
GER
[112]
NLD
[113]
NZ
[114]
SWE
[115]
UK
[116]
US
[117]
My Dear Melancholy,[137]
  • Released: March 30, 2018
  • Label: XO, Republic
  • Formats: CD, digital download, streaming
1 3 1 7 3 2 1 3 1
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Compilation albums[change | change source]

List of compilation albums, with selected chart positions, sales figures and certifications
Title Album details Peak chart positions Sales Certifications
CAN
[108]
AUS
[109]
DEN
[110]
FRA
[111]
GER
[112]
NLD
[113]
UK
[116]
US
[117]
Trilogy
  • Released: November 9, 2012[139]
  • Label: XO, Republic
  • Formats: CD, LP, digital download
5 93 22 128 90 48 37 4
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Awards and nominations[change | change source]

Grammy Awards[change | change source]

The Weeknd has won 3 awards from 10 nominations.[144]

Year Nominated work Award Result
2014 "Remember You" (with Wiz Khalifa) Best Rap/Sung Collaboration Nominated
2016 Beauty Behind the Madness Album of the Year Nominated
Best Urban Contemporary Album Won
"Can't Feel My Face" Record of the Year Nominated
Best Pop Solo Performance Nominated
"Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey)" Best R&B Performance Won
Best R&B Song Nominated
Best Song Written for Visual Media Nominated
2017 Lemonade (as featured artist) Album of the Year Nominated
2018 Starboy Best Urban Contemporary Album Won

Personal life[change | change source]

Tesfaye began dating model Bella Hadid at the beginning of 2015; the couple were first seen together in April at Coachella.[145][146] Hadid later starred in his music video "In the Night" in December. They also made a red carpet appearance as a couple at the 2016 Grammy Awards.[147] On 11 November 2016, it was reported that the couple had split; citing their conflicting schedules as the rationale for the relationship's termination.[148] Tesfaye reportedly started dating Selena Gomez in January 2017 and they moved in together temporarily in September 2017 in Greenwich Village, New York.[149][150] They broke up in October 2017.[151] As of May 2018, Tesfaye and Hadid began dating again.[152]

Tesfaye often used drugs to help get over writer's block on earlier albums and also abused illegal substances such as "... Ketamine, cocaine, MDMA, mushrooms and cough syrup".[153] Speaking in December 2013, Tesfaye said that drugs were a "crutch" for him when it came to writing music.[154] On social media he typically suffixed his first name with "xo".[4] According to writer Hermione Hoby, it is meant as an emoticon for "a kiss and a hug",[4] while VH1's Zara Golden's stated that it is a reference to his recreational use of ecstasy and oxycodone.[16][155] He later altered the handles on his social media to reflect his stage name in preparation for the release of Starboy.[156]

Tesfaye's hairstyle has been claimed to be partly inspired by Jean-Michel Basquiat and has been described as his most recognizable trait.[12] In an interview, he detailed that he began growing it out in 2011, and remarked at the easiness in maintaining it, with "a hard shampoo every once in a while".[12] He eventually cut his hair in 2016 prior to the release of Starboy.[157]

In his leisure time, he enjoys watching television[158] and is an avid video game fan.[159][160] In the context of media outlets reporting cases of police brutality, in 2016, he expressed disdain, tweeting "blue lives murder".[161][162][163] In May 2016, Tesfaye and Belly cancelled an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! due to Donald Trump being present.[164]

Legal issues[change | change source]

In January 2015, Tesfaye was arrested for punching a Las Vegas police officer.[165] Tesfaye pleaded no contest, and was sentenced to 50 hours of community service.[166] In December 2015, Tesfaye was sued by Cutting Edge Music, who alleged that the bass line for "The Hills" had been taken from a composition featured in the score for The Machine.[167]

In September 2018, Tesfaye and Daft Punk were sued for allegedly stealing the rhythm from a self-described poet, singer and songwriter named Yasminah.[168]

Philanthropy[change | change source]

Prior to being presented a Bikila Award for Professional Excellence in 2014, Tesfaye donated $50,000 towards a class at the University of Toronto on Ge'ez, the classic language of Ethiopia.[169] In August 2016 he continued donations to the University of Toronto, in the creation of a new Ethiopic Studies program.[163]

In May 2016 Tesfaye has also donated $50,000 for the St. Mary Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in Toronto, Canada.[170] In August 2016, Tesfaye also donated $250,000 to Black Lives Matter.[171][163] In December 2015, he worked with Ryan Seacrest's foundation to visit Children's Hospital in Atlanta.[172]

In June 2017, Tesfaye donated $100,000 to the Suubi Health Center, a maternity and children's medical facility in Budondo, Uganda. Tesfaye was inspired to support the center after learning of his friend French Montana's work with Global Citizen and Mama Hope to help raise awareness for Suubi and the people of Uganda.[173]

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