The Weeknd, the artist searching for redemption

Abel Tesfaye, known as The Weeknd, is one of the biggest artists of his generation. In his 10-year-carreer, he sold 74 millions records, got a lot of rewards, and he even got nominated one of the most influential people in the world by the Time in 2020. But behind this mainstream artist is hiding a 31-year-old man searching for redemption, or at least that’s what we feel when we listen to his new album Dawn FM, released on January 7th. Let’s rewind on this storytelling genius’ carreer.


If we want to trace back to the beginning of The Weeknd’s carreer, we have to go back in 2009, when he was anonymously publishing Youtube videos. 2 years later, he founded his own label called XO Record and released three mixtapes “House of Balloons” (the first one and therefore the most important one, which was reissued this year with Daniel Arsham to celebrate its 10-year-release), “Thursday” and “Echoes of Silence”. He then gathered these 3 mixtapes in Trilogy, a year later, and his carreer went through the roof. 
Throughout his music, The Weeknd browses different themes such as escaping, romanticism and melancholia, in the form of dark lyrics and eclectic melodies. All based on his own experiences. His music isn’t restricting itself in one musical genre, even though it’s mostly put in the hip hop/soul category. It smoothly navigates between hip hop, pop, R&B, it doesn’t have boundaries. With each mixtape being released, the artist opens up more and more, he’s less scared to show his vulnerability, and to break certain toxic masculinity cliches. 
We can assume he changed the culture by giving new sounds that inspired Frank Ocean or FKA Twigs, and his mixtape “Trilogy” inspired a lot of artists to release new albums, such as Beyoncé and her surprise album. 


The music industry moves on really fast and The Weeknd is getting more fame and with fame comes reputation. Or at least his new reputation. From being shy in public, he showed up more and more and not alone.  That’s where his starboy era started, even though the album with the same name will be released in 2016. Let’s go back in 2013 when he released his first studio album “Kiss Land”. You find a nonchalant artist, almost innocent in his lifestyle, discovering fame before being sucked in it. He released his second album “Beauty Behind the Madness” in 2015 and his third album “Starboy” a year later. What comes out of these two albums is that fame is catching up with him. In this era of his life, the artist is in an on/off relationship with Bella Hadid that will last a few years. He will then search comfort with Selena Gomez, before the relationship ends. He also takes a lot of drugs,  he’s living the life of a rockstar, an accomplished fantasy.
After a tough breakup with Selena Gomez, he released his EP called “My Dear Melancholy” in 2018 to close this era. He claims his right to sadness, and confesses to going back to his old ways to get better (he has a complicated past with illicit substance abuses). 


You can tell there’s a break with who he was in “After Hours”, as if he already knew that he was about to cross a boundary. Melodywise there’s a nice 80’s influence, all on new wave, pop, and R&B. The tones are warm, there are melodies to dance to, it’s new. And it’s the perfect space to slip up – the artist appears beaten with a broken nose when he’s performing on stage. He’s like this new comics villain but from Hollywood, singing the despair and the pleasure you get from it.
And suddenly, the boundary gets crossed. The tones are blue, cold, dark. After Hours is far behind. Dawn FM, released on January 7, introduces the artist  older on the cover, as if the past finally got back to him. We end up listening to a radio channel with a 80’s atmosphere, narrated by Jim Carrey. Mixing an old music inspiration with a futuristic idea of the after life, “Dawn FM” recurs to the artist’s life. He finally deals with the consequences of his actions, which he thought were impunishable. 

What more is there to say to end this article other that The Weeknd is a genius ? I can’t wait to see where the artist will take us next. He teased a new trilogy on Twitter, I guess we’ll see… 

Written by Elena Gaudé.