The Weeknd

Canadian singer, songwriter and record producer

Abel Makkonen Tesfaye CM OOnt (born February 16, 1990), better known by his stage name The Weeknd, is a Canadian singer, songwriter, and record producer.[1] He is notable for his influence on contemporary R&B and pop music. Tesfaye's work has been categorized as alternative R&B.[2][3]

The Weeknd

FEQ July 2018 The Weeknd (44778856382) (cropped).jpg
The Weeknd during a show in 2018
Born
Abel Makkonen Tesfaye

(1990-02-16) February 16, 1990 (age 31)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
NationalityCanadian
Occupation
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • actor
  • record producer
Years active2010–present
AwardsFull list
Musical career
Genres
Labels
Associated acts
Websitetheweeknd.com
Signature
Logo de The Weeknd.png

Tesfaye began his career by anonymously uploading several songs to YouTube under the name "The Weeknd" in 2010. A year later, he released the positively reviewed mixtapes House of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes of Silence.[4] The mixtapes were later remastered and re-released on the compilation album Trilogy (2012), after he signed with Republic Records and created his own record label XO. His debut album, Kiss Land, was released in September 2013. In 2015, Tesfaye released Beauty Behind the Madness. It ended up being one of the top-selling albums of 2015. That same year, Tesfaye became the first artist to hold the top three positions on the Billboard Hot R&B Songs chart at the same time, with "Can't Feel My Face", "Earned It", and "The Hills". His third album was released in 2016. It was called Starboy and was also very successful. The song of the same name reached the number-one spot in many countries. He released his first EP, My Dear Melancholy, in 2018. It topped the Billboard 200 and Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums charts in the US, the Canadian Albums Chart, and also topped charts in the UK Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and South Korea.

The Weeknd has won three Grammy Awards, nine Billboard Music Awards, five American Music Awards, two MTV Music Video Awards, nine Juno Awards,[5] and has been nominated for one Academy Award.[6] In an interview in 2013, Tesfaye said his vocals were inspired by Michael Jackson, R. Kelly, and Prince.[7]

Early lifeEdit

Abel Tesfaye was born in Toronto, Ontario. He grew up in the district of Scarborough, located 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]

Tesfaye's father abandoned the family when he was a toddler. So as a result, Tesfaye was cared for by his grandmother and mother.[12] While living with his grandmother Tesfaye learned Amharic, which he also spoke with his mother,[13] and attended Ethiopian Orthodox church services.[11][14]

In an interview regarding his father, Tesfaye said:

"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."[11]

Tesfaye 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][15]

Tesfaye attended West Hill Collegiate Institute and Birchmount Park Collegiate Institute in Scarborough, Toronto. At age 17 he got kicked out halfway into his junior year while at West Hill and transferred to Birchmount Park. He dropped out in 2007, six months after transferring schools.[16] Tesfaye also left his home shortly after that and moved into a small apartment in the Parkdale neighborhood of Toronto, along with some friends. Tesfaye has credited his stage name as being inspired by his high school dropout status, saying he "left one weekend and never came back home", although producer Jeremy Rose claims the name was his idea.[17] The spelling was modified in order to avoid trademark issues with the Canadian band The Weekend.[8][14] He also said that his stage name was going to be the title of his mixtape, House of Balloons.[14]

CareerEdit

2010–2011: Career beginningsEdit

Tesfaye met Jeremy Rose in 2010, a producer who had an idea for a dark R&B musical project. Rose played one of his instrumentals for Tesfaye, and then Tesfaye 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", along with others that were ultimately scrapped. Rose let Tesfaye keep the tracks he had produced under the condition that he would be credited for them.[17] In December 2010, Tesfaye uploaded "What You Need", "Loft Music" and "The Morning" to YouTube under his stage name,[18] although his identity was initially unknown.[19][20] The songs drew some attention online, and were later included in a blog post from Drake.[21][17][22] Drake's blog post helped the songs receive coverage from various media outlets, including Pitchfork and The New York Times. Before adopting the stage name "The Weeknd", he worked under the aliases of "The Noise" and "Kin Kane",[10] and was also in a group with JessieRay called "Bulleez n Nerdz."[23][24]

On March 21, 2011, Tesfaye self-released his debut mixtape House of Balloons.[25][26] 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 like he told Tesfaye to do. When Rose found out about this, he told Tesfaye that he didn't want to work with him anymore. Rose also told VICE that he wasn't paid by Tesfaye.[17] House of Balloons was met with positive reviews.[27] It was named as one of ten shortlisted nominees for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize.[28]

Tesfaye began a tour of Toronto in July, with his first ever live performance at the city's Mod Club venue. He performed "High for This", "Wicked Games", and "The After Party".[29] Fellow Toronto rapper Drake was in attendance to view the performance. It ran for a total of ninety minutes, and was sold-out.[30] Drake later approached Tesfaye for a potential musical collaboration between the pair. They had both met in 2009 when Tesfaye and his producers wrote a song called "Birthday Suit" while Drake was putting together his debut album Thank Me Later. Although the song never made it to the album, Drake still kept an eye on Tesfaye.[31] Tesfaye later accompanied Drake at many shows, as well as making an appearance at the second annual OVO Fest.[32] Over the summer of 2011, Tesfaye contributed to five songs on Drake's Take Care as a writer, including an appearance on "Crew Love" as a featured artist.[33]

Tesfaye avoided participating in interviews and chose to communicate through Twitter after the album was released.[31] Tesfaye also chose to communicate through Twitter before releasing his second mixtape Thursday, which was released on August 18, 2011. It was produced by Doc McKinney and IIIangelo, just like House of Balloons was, and features Drake in one song.[34] Tesfaye's third mixtape Echoes of Silence was released on December 21, 2011, a year after his debut singles. It also received positive reviews from Pitchfork, Billboard, and other websites.[35][36]

After this release, the three mixtapes were known together as the Balloons Trilogy.[37]

2012–2014: Trilogy and Kiss LandEdit

 
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, where he performed the Balloons Trilogy.[38][39] The tour reached a high point in New York City with back-to-back sold-out shows, which were positively reviewed by Rolling Stone.[38][40] Tesfaye expanded his tour to include Europe, and he performed at various European festivals, including the Primavera Sound Festivals in Spain and Portugal,[41] and the Wireless Festival in London, all during Summer 2012.[42] He received positive responses from both Katy Perry and Florence Welch over his performance of "Dirty Diana" in London, who noted his ability to successfully undertake a complex song.[37] 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.[37]

In September 2012, Tesfaye signed with Republic Records in a joint venture with his own imprint XO.[43] The compilation album for the mixtapes, named Trilogy, was released two months later, and consisted of several remastered versions of songs as well as three additional ones.[44] "Wicked Games" was remastered as the lead single, and was released in October. The song was also included in the soundtrack for the movie Southpaw. The movie features 50 Cent, and the soundtrack was produced by Eminem. Trilogy also officially credited Rose as a producer and writer on the three songs from House of Balloons that he did not initially receive credit on.[45] It entered the U.S. Billboard 200 chart at the number four spot, and also debuted at number five on the Canadian Albums Chart.[46][47] Trilogy was later certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and double-platinum by Music Canada in May 2013.[48][49] It had sold 385,000 copies almost a year after the release, in September 2013.[50] Tesfaye also gained a nomination for the Sound of 2013 poll award by the BBC a week later.[51]

 
Tesfaye performing at Massey Hall in October 2013.

On May 16, 2013, Tesfaye premiered the title track to his debut studio album Kiss Land,[52] and announced the album's release date as September 10.[53] The album was later promoted by the singles "Belong to the World" and "Live For" featuring Drake, as well as with Tesfaye heading out on The Fall tour a week before the album's release.[54] The Fall Tour ran from September to November.[55] After being released, Kiss Land debuted at number two on the U.S. Billboard 200, selling 96,000 copies.[50] It received generally positive reviews from music critics.[56]

In November, Tesfaye appeared on the 20/20 Experience World Tour and partnered with headline act Justin Timberlake for six shows.[57] 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". "Elastic Heart" was later chosen as the second lead single from the soundtrack.[58][59]

In February 2014, Tesfaye remixed "Drunk in Love", a single by Beyoncé from her studio album. He retaining the theme and concept of the song and detailed the synopsis through the perspective of a male.[60] The remix was well-received. In June, Tesfaye officially announced his first headlining tour, called 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.[61] This announcement came before the release of the single "Often", and led to speculation that it would be the first single from his second album. The speculation proved to be true, and Often was released on July 31, 2014 as the first single of his second album. His second album was released in August 2015. He later collaborated with Ariana Grande on a duet titled "Love Me Harder" in September, which peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100.[62] On December 23, he released "Earned It", a single from Fifty Shades of Grey (2015).[63] The song peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100, and it was his second contribution to a movie.

2015–2017: Beauty Behind the Madness and StarboyEdit

After winning the Centric Award at the 2015 BET Awards for "Earned It", he performed the song again with Alicia Keys, and also debuted the song "The Hills".[64][65] "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, which meant that was Tesfaye's first number-one single.

A further three songs were leaked online in the corresponding days.[66] On June 8, "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.[67][68] 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.[69][70] He occupied all three slots on Billboard's Hot R&B Songs chart at the same time with "Can't Feel My Face", "Earned It", and "The Hills" for the week of July 15. With this, Tesfaye become the first artist in history to accomplish it.[71][72] In June, Tesfaye was unveiled as one of the musical faces of the new streaming service Apple Music along with fellow Canadian and frequent collaborator Drake.[68] During the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards, Apple debuted a two-part promotional commercial featuring Tesfaye, which had a guest appearance from John Travolta.[73] It was revealed that his second studio album would be titled Beauty Behind the Madness.

Beauty Behind the Madness was released on August 28, 2015, and debuted atop the Billboard 200, earning 412,000 album equivalent units in its first week.[74][75] It reached the top 10 in over ten countries, as well as reaching number one in Canada, Australia, Norway, and the United Kingdom.[76][77] The album was promoted by Tesfaye headlining various summer music festivals, including Lollapalooza in Chicago, the Hard Summer Music Festival in Pomona, and the Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle.[78] He announced his first large-scale tour across the United States, which began in November, and concluded in December.[79][80] The album went double platinum in the US, and sold 1.5 million copies worldwide.[81] It was reported to be the most-streamed album throughout 2015, with over 60 million listeners.[82] It was also ranked on multiple lists for best albums of the year.[83]

After engaging in multiple musical collaborations with Belly,[84] Meek Mill,[85] and Travis Scott,[86][87] Tesfaye was featured on "Low Life", the triple platinum single from Future's album EVOL, in December of that year.[88][89] In February 2016, Tesfaye was featured on "FML", a track on Kanye West's The Life of Pablo.[90] It was the second collaboration between the pair, and West provided production and writing on "Tell Your Friends" from Beauty Behind the Madness. Tesfaye appeared on "6 Inch", the fifth song on Beyoncé's Lemonade, in April. 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.[91]

While preparing for his third studio album, Republic Records executive vice-president Wendy Goldstein confirmed Tesfaye began collaborating with French electronic music duo Daft Punk on August 24.[92] On the same day, Tesfaye announced a collaboration with Norwegian DJ Cashmere Cat on his debut single "Wild Love" from his album 9.[93] A month later, the album's title was announced as Starboy, and was set to be released on November 25.[94] He released the album's title track, which features Daft Punk, on September 21. The song received platinum certification and peaked at number one in the United States, as well as in various other countries. It also became Daft Punk's first chart-topping song.[95] A week later, "False Alarm" was released as a promotional single.[96] A second collaboration with Daft Punk, entitled "I Feel It Coming", was released a week after the album's release, alongside the single "Party Monster".[97][98] "Party Monster" topped the Rhythmic Songs Chart. He released a 12-minute short film titled M A N I A on November 23.[99] It features excerpts from the album, including snippets from "All I Know" featuring Future, "Sidewalks" featuring Kendrick Lamar, "Secrets" and "Die for You".[100]

In 2017, Tesfaye appeared on Future's sixth studio album,[101] as well as on the debut single from Nav, who was signed by XO in January.[102] He became the first person featured by Lana Del Rey when he appeared on "Lust for Life", the title track and second single from her fifth studio album, in April.[103] He was featured on French Montana's "A Lie", the third single from his second album Jungle Rules. In September, he appeared on the official music video for Lil Uzi Vert's "XO Tour Llif3" along 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.[104]

2018–present: My Dear Melancholy, After Hours, and Super Bowl halftime showEdit

 
The Weeknd performing live in Hong Kong in November 2018

In January 2018, Tesfaye was featured on one of the tracks in the Kendrick Lamar-produced Black Panther soundtrack album, "Pray for Me". [105]On February 2, 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 March 27, 2018, Tesfaye began promoting a possible new release in an Instagram post.[106][107] On March 29, a billboard appeared in London, England promoting a possible album titled My Dear Melancholy,[108] and on the same day the project was officially announced.[109] On March 30, the extended play My Dear Melancholy was officially released, with "Call Out My Name" as the lead single.[110]

Tesfaye released his sixth studio album, After Hours, on March 20, 2020. The album became his fourth to reach number one on the US Billboard 200 album chart, selling 444,000 US copies in its first week, the most for any of his albums.[111] It spawned his fourth and fifth US number-one songs, "Heartless" and "Blinding Lights".[112]

Tesfaye also opened the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards by performing "Blinding Lights" at the top of Edge at Hudson Yard in New York City.[113] The video for "Blinding Lights" won Video of the Year and Best R&B.[114]

He was featured on a remix of Colombian singer Maluma's song "Hawái", on Scottish DJ Calvin Harris' track "Over Now", and on American singer Ariana Grande's song "Off the Table" from her album, Positions.[115][116][117]

In November 2020, Tesfaye was announced as the headliner for the halftime show of Super Bowl LV, occurring on February 7, 2021.[118]


DiscographyEdit

Studio albumsEdit

List of studio albums, with selected chart positions and sales figures
Title Album details Peak chart positions Sales Certifications
CAN
[119]
AUS
[120]
DEN
[121]
FRA
[122]
GER
[123]
NLD
[124]
NZ
[125]
SWE
[126]
UK
[127]
US
[128]
Kiss Land 2 30 6 93 93 52 60 12 2
Beauty Behind the Madness
  • Released: August 28, 2015[133]
  • Label: XO, Republic
  • Formats: CD, LP, digital download, cassette
1 1 2 6 7 2 2 1 1 1
Starboy
  • Released: November 25, 2016[141]
  • Label: XO, Republic
  • Formats: CD, LP, digital download
1 1 1 10 10 3 5 1 5 1
After Hours
  • Released: March 20, 2020
  • Label: XO, Republic
1
"—" denotes a album that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Extended playsEdit

List of extended plays, with selected details
Title EP details Peak chart positions Sales Certifications
CAN
[119]
AUS
[120]
DEN
[121]
GER
[123]
NLD
[124]
NZ
[125]
SWE
[126]
UK
[127]
US
[128]
My Dear Melancholy,[148]
  • 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 albumsEdit

List of compilation albums, with selected chart positions, sales figures and certifications
Title Album details Peak chart positions Sales Certifications
CAN
[119]
AUS
[120]
DEN
[121]
FRA
[122]
GER
[123]
NLD
[124]
UK
[127]
US
[128]
Trilogy
  • Released: November 9, 2012[150]
  • 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 nominationsEdit

Grammy AwardsEdit

The Weeknd has won 3 awards from 10 nominations.[155]

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

American Music AwardsEdit

Year Nominated work Award Result
2015 "Can't Feel My Face" Single of the Year Nominated
Beauty Behind the Madness Favorite Soul/R&B Album Won
Himself New Artist of the Year Nominated
Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist Won
2016 Nominated
Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist Nominated
2017 Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist Nominated
Starboy Favorite Pop/Rock Album Nominated
Favorite Soul/R&B Album Nominated
"Starboy" (featuring Daft Punk) Favorite Soul/R&B Song Nominated
Collaboration of the Year Nominated
2018 Himself Favorite Male Artist – Soul/R&B Nominated
2020 Won
Favorite Male Artist – Pop/Rock Nominated
Artist of the Year Nominated
"Heartless" Favorite Song – Soul/R&B Won
"Blinding Lights" Favorite Music Video Nominated
Favorite Song – Pop/Rock Nominated
After Hours Favorite Album – Soul/R&B Won
Favorite Album – Pop/Rock Nominated


Personal lifeEdit

Tesfaye began dating model Bella Hadid at the beginning of 2015; the couple were first seen together in April at Coachella.[156][157] 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.[158] In November 2016, it was reported that the couple had split; citing their conflicting schedules as the rationale for the relationship's termination.[159] Tesfaye reportedly started dating Selena Gomez in January 2017 and they moved in together temporarily in September 2017 in Greenwich Village, New York.[160][161] They broke up in October 2017.[162] By May 2018, Tesfaye and Hadid began dating again,[163] and split in August 2019.[164] The two have had an on and off relationship.

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.[165][166] On social media he typically suffixed his first name with "xo".[167] According to writer Hermione Hoby, it is meant as an emoticon for "a kiss and a hug",[167] but VH1's Zara Golden's stated that it is a reference to his recreational use of ecstasy and oxycodone.[168][169] Tesfaye later confirmed Zara Golden's statement regarding his social media name.[170]

Tesfaye's claimed his hairstyle was partly inspired by artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and described it as his most recognizable trait.[171] In an interview, he detailed that 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".[171] He eventually cut his hair in 2016 prior to the release of Starboy.[172]

In May 2016, Tesfaye and Belly cancelled an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! because Donald Trump was going to be present.[173]

Legal issuesEdit

In January 2015, Tesfaye was arrested for punching a Las Vegas police officer at The Cromwell Hotel.[174] Tesfaye pleaded no contest, and was sentenced to 50 hours of community service in October of that year. Along with community service, he was also ordered to pay $1,000 to an injured police fund, complete anger management classes, and present an alcohol evaluation.[175]

In December 2015, Tesfaye, his producers, and his record label Republic Records, were sued by Cutting Edge Music. They made an allegation that the bass line for "The Hills" had been taken from the score of The Machine. Documents state that Tesfaye's producer allegedly sent the movie director a direct message on Twitter in March saying that he sampled the beat and that it might be on "The Hills".[176][177]

In September 2018, Tesfaye and Daft Punk were sued for allegedly stealing the rhythm in "Starboy" from a poet, singer and songwriter named Yasminah.[178] Yasminah sued for at least $5 million.[179] Tesfaye denied the allegations.[180]

In November 2018, Tesfaye was sued for copyright infringement by another comic book writer named Eymun Talasazan for stealing the "Starboy" idea.[181] Talasazan claimed he had already created a comic book character named "Starboy" before Tesfaye.[182] A few months earlier, Talasazan attempted to trademark the "Starboy" name unsuccessfully.[183]

In April 2019, Tesfaye was sued by a British trio for $150,000.[184] They accused Tesfaye of plagiarizing their song "I Need to Love" with "A Lonely Night".[185]

PhilanthropyEdit

After being presented a Bikila Award for Professional Excellence in 2014, Tesfaye was asked by the organization if he would like to contribute. In August 2016, he donated $50,000 towards a class at the University of Toronto on Ge'ez, the classic language of Ethiopia.[186] He also tweeted to help raise funds and gain support for the program.[186] That same month, Tesfaye also donated $250,000 to Black Lives Matter, and posted a tweet showing his support for the movement.[187][188][189]

In December 2015, he worked with Ryan Seacrest's foundation to visit Children's Hospital in Atlanta.[190] Tesfaye made a donation of $50,000 to the St. Mary Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in Toronto in May 2016. He went to this church as a child.[191]

In June 2017, Tesfaye donated $100,000 to the Suubi Health Center, a maternity and children's medical facility in rural Uganda. His donation allowed the center to complete the construction of the first floor and increase the serving capacity.[192] 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.[193]

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