Abel Makkonen Tesfaye (born February 16, 1990), known professionally as The Weeknd, is a Canadian singer, songwriter, actor and record producer. In 2010, he anonymously uploaded several songs to YouTube under the name “The Weeknd” and released the mixtapes House of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes of Silence in 2011 which quickly gained him a following and recognition from several mainstream publications due to his dark wave-style of R&B and the mystique surrounding his identity.
House of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes of Silence were later remastered and re-released on the compilation album Trilogy (2012). In 2013, The Weeknd released his debut album Kiss Land and followed it up with Beauty Behind the Madness (2015), the latter of which became his first Billboard 200 number-one album, and featured the Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles “Can’t Feel My Face” and “The Hills”. At the 56th Grammy Awards, Beauty Behind the Madness won Best Urban Contemporary Album and was nominated for Album of the Year. A year after the release of the album, The Weeknd released his third album Starboy (2016), which spawned the Billboard Hot 100 number-one hit of the same name. His first EP My Dear Melancholy (2018) debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, and preceded his fourth album After Hours (2020). It was critically acclaimed, and featured the Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles “Heartless” and “Blinding Lights”.
The Weeknd has won three Grammy Awards, two American Music Awards, nine Billboard Music Awards, nine Juno Awards, and has been nominated for an Academy Award. He holds several chart records, being 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”, while “The Hills” was certified Diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). One of the most successful Canadian recording artists, The Weeknd was awarded the Allan Slaight Award by Canada’s Walk of Fame for “making a positive impact in the fields of music, film, literature, visual or performing arts, sports, innovation or philanthropy”.
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. In December 2010, Tesfaye uploaded “What You Need”, “Loft Music” and “The Morning” to YouTube under his stage name, although his identity was initially unknown. The songs drew some attention online, and were later included in a blog post from Drake. 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 aliases of “The Noise” and “Kin Kane”.
Tesfaye took to his Twitter to mention that his extended play, Noise, were “a bunch of songs leaked by salty producers and found AFTER HOB dropped.” He says that they were demos that he had written as a teenager to try and get recognition. The EP consists of 10 tracks, some of which influenced his debut mixtape, House of Balloons.
On March 21, 2011, Tesfaye self-released his debut mixtape House of Balloons. 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. House of Balloons was met with critical acclaim. It was named as one of ten shortlisted nominees for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize.
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. 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. Over the summer of 2011, Tesfaye contributed to four songs on Drake’s Take Care, both as a writer and a featured artist.
Tesfaye refrained from participating in interviews, choosing to communicate via Twitter, after the album was released. This was credited as an advertising tactic for Tesfayes second mixtape Thursday, which was released on August 18, 2011. Tesfaye’s third mixtape Echoes of Silence was released on December 21, 2011, a year after his debut singles.
Following this release, the three mixtapes were collectively known as the Balloons Trilogy, and saw Tesfaye receiving offers from various record labels.