Over the past couple of years, The Weeknd, real name Abel Tesfaye, has become one of the most recognizable voices (and hairstyles) in R&B music. Although he has been producing music for almost ten years, his breakthrough album Beauty Behind the Madness landed him seven Grammy nominations, including record and album of the year, alongside an Academy Award nomination for Earned It, which he sang for the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack.
The Weeknd has always dreamed big, in 2011 he released his first original mix tapes. The 26-year-old singer told The LA Times, "I wanted to drop three albums in a year because no one had done it. It was bold, unheard of. Back then I didn’t even want to get onstage." Putting out so much original music won him a cult following and also fellow Canadian, rapper Drake, took him under his wing.
He also revealed that although producing music was natural for him - his performance skills were lacking behind. During the interview he remembers, "It was a nightmare. I didn’t know how to control my voice. I watched the tape back and I said, 'This is not right. I can do this, but I’m not going to do it like this.' I told my agent to book more shows. I didn’t want to put out another album until I was good enough to perform and kill the nerves that I have."
Now a natural performer, his songs can be heard everywhere around the world, although this has caused some controversy. Many believe he glorifies a lifestyle of fast love, lots of drugs and violence - but behind the music who actually is The Weeknd and what is he really singing about? Here we look at his songs and what he's really trying to say.
15 His Fling With Ariana Grande
In the world of showbiz and hip-hop, no love story can ever be simple. In his track The Hills, The Weeknd drops a lot of truth bombs about his time spent seeing singer Ariana Grande and it's not too pretty.
His first line on the song reads, "Your man on the road, he doin' promo. You said, "Keep our business on the low-low." Many speculate that when Big Sean was working "doing promo" away on his album Dark Sky Paradise, he rarely got to see Grande who he had been dating for just under a year. According to TMZ, "He found (her) selfish and he travelled ten times more than she did to see her." They added, "We're told she needed to get ready for the Grammys the next day."
However it appears the true story is Grande was getting close with The Weeknd who she teamed up with to perform on the track Love Me Harder. To further add to speculation he also notes how self-absorbed Grande was on his track False Alarm. He sang, "All red dress with the devil eyes. So obsessed with the camera lights." Looks like it never really worked for the pair, as their fling was very brief.
14 What 'XO' Really Means
Many fans of The Weeknd's music believe that his constant mention of "XO" stands for hugs and kisses, whereas the wiser few know it's actually slang for ecstasy and oxycontin. The Weeknd is well known for his heavy drug use, in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine he revealed he first smoked marijuana aged 11-years-old before moving onto harder drugs. He recently admitted this year, "I never needed detox or anything. But I was addicted in the sense of 'I don't want to spend this day without getting high.'"
His entire track Can't Feel My Face is speculated to be about cocaine, he refers to the drug as "she" throughout singing: "I know she'll be the death of me" and "She'll always get the best of me, at least we'll both be numb."
He also sings on his track Glass Bottom Girls, "Bring the 707 out." 707, a type of glass table made by Boeing, is often associated in pop culture with drug use. 707 is also the chemical name for glass cleaners, most likely used to clean the table after the party has finished their drugs. Let's just say - any more hints he drops about his drug use and the law might question him.
13 He Has Made A Ton Of Money
Since the release of mainstream hits like The Hills and Can't Feel My Face, The Weeknd can now fill arenas and really start earning the big bucks. According to Forbes magazine, his net worth now sits at a staggering $30 million. In his track Starboy he brags his "P1 cleaner than your church shoes" - a P1 is a type of car he owns that is worth around $1.2 million.
He also sings in his cover of Beyonce's Drunk In Love, "Should've never put us on, I'm only 24, And everybody salty, stop your b****in'. Everybody makin' money, we don't need to kick it." Since his rise to stardom, alongside his list of accomplishments including winning two Grammy awards and receiving a nomination for an Academy Award, it appears he has picked up some haters along the way.
He also mentions his own rate of success in the track Kiss Land when he sings: "I went from starin' at the same four walls for 21 years, To seein' the whole world in just twelve months."
12 He Has A Dig At Meek Mill's Groupies
In his track Often, The Weeknd sings: "But we ain't really going to sleep at allYou ain't gonna catch me with them sneak pictures." Although they are close friends, The Weeknd is taking a dig at Meek Mill (pictured above) for the time he got caught on camera without knowing.
According to HiphopMorning, they said of the picture that leaked online, "Meek Mill has become the latest victim to be exposed. Just a regular girl who happens to be a big fan of Meek had the time of her life. Surprisingly she wasn’t even in it for the money, she just wanted the goods. Well, now text messages leading to and after the encounter have surfaced."
They added, "A very excited fan of Meek who goes by the name of Alexus had been text messaging a friend revealing she bagged the rap star and she would be sleeping with him. After she reached her goal she snapped pictures of Meek snoring."
11 He Used Fake ID's To Get Into Nightclubs With Drake
Drake revealed during an interview with MTV, "We're definitely a family - it's a Toronto thing." The Weeknd returned the love confirming that Drake is his "closest friend in the industry." He added, "I will always be thankful - if it wasn't for the light he shined on me, who knows where I'd be. And everything happens for a reason." They both grew up in Toronto, The Weeknd in Scarborough and Drake just 45 minutes away in Forest Hill.
The Weeknd and Drake go way back to 2009, before they both appeared together on Drake's sophomore album Take Care in 2011. At the time, they were both aged under 21-years-old and would hustle their way into nightclubs using fake ID's. They both appeared on the track Crew Love, where they sing: "Fake ID's in the trash, we going straight to the top, rooftop glows." Now with them both soaring in popularity - they are pretty much VIP in every club throughout the world.
10 He Is Often Evicted From Hotels
If you were wondering what The Weeknd meant when he sang: "I turn the Ritz into a poor house. It's like eviction number four now" on the song Low Life - it's that he's gets thrown out of hotels...a lot. His incredibly NSFW music video for Often shows him transforming his room into a clearly adults-only party.
Early 2015, police were called to the Cromwell Hotel in Las Vegas after The Star magazine reported he "punched an officer in the side of the head with a closed fist." He was charged with battery on a protected person and ordered to pay a fine. There have also been reported of him getting evicted from a string of hotels after he turns his room into a drink and drugs after party. Even way back in 2012, he tweeted: "Might just throw a party in the hotel room!" even though it was 3:22 am.
9 He Believes He Let His Mother Down
The Weeknd grew up in Toronto; he left the home shared with his mother when he was just a teenager following fights about him taking drugs and shoplifting. He recalled in an interview with The Telegraph that he went to his room, grabbed his mattress, dragged it out the house and threw it in his friend's car, before the two took off. He remembers his mother gave him: "The worst look anyone could ever have. She looked at me like she had failed."
He speaks about this time he let his mother down on the track Real Life as he sings, "Mama called me destructive, oh yeah. Said it'd ruin me one day, yeahCause every woman that loved me, oh yeah. I seemed to push them away." He also touched on being a teenage tearaway for the track Losers. He sings: "Only losers go to school. I taught myself how to move." Recalling back to the time he dropped out of school aged only 17-years-old.
8 He Is Secretly A Sociopath
There have been many debates by The Weeknd's fans online whether he qualifies for a sociopath or not. Psychology Today published a study titled How To Spot A Sociopath and they detailed to look out for untruthfulness and insincerity, lack of remorse and shame, egocentricity and incapacity for love, sex life is impersonal and trivial.
According to one sharp-eyed genius user, the above themes all appear in many of his songs. They wrote, "Sociopathic tendencies have surfaced on many other The Weeknd songs as well. For example, nearly every other warning sign is covered in House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls."
Other lyrics from his songs that have caused debate about his sociopathic tendencies have included, "I only call you when it's half past five", "He's what you want, I'm what you need", "I'll always be there for you girl I have no shame" and "You're in my world now, you can stay, but you belong to me."
7 He Is Proud Of His Ethiopian Heritage
Born Abel Tesfaye, both his parents were born in Ethiopia and they lived through the Red Terror wars that followed after the death of Emperor Haile Selassie. He told GQ magazine, "I remember hearing some stories from my uncles. But I don't think my mom wanted to tell those stories. I don't think Ethiopians want their kids to feel like Ethiopia is a bad place."
Although he was protected from his own family history, the Ethiopian cuisine is still his favourite from childhood. He said, "It's the best, man. But it's very fattening. I think I'm still burning off that fat, to be honest. For an Ethiopian mother, if you have a chubby kid, it means you're doing something good."
At the end of his song The Hills, he sings in his first language of Amharic, "Ewedihalehu. Yene konjo, ewedihalehu. Yene fikir." Which translates to, "I love you very much. My beautiful, I love you very much. My love."
6 His Violent Streak
Punching a police officer is not the only time The Weeknd's violent streak has landed him in trouble. According to a police report filed in 2014, a fight broke out in Toronto just days after his album launched when a man mocked his hair. The Weeknd then apparently lost his cool and started throwing punches. Witnessed claimed he was punched several times in the face before police were able to restrain him. On both occasions of his outbursts he has been able to avoid jail time.
Often he sings about his temper problems. On his track Dark Times he says, "I got another man's blood on my clothes. But it ain't his fault, it's the life I chose." Also in his video for False Alarm he chooses to resort to violence in an intense police standoff. Shot entirely in first-person view, the video follows a high-stakes bank heist all the way to a bloody end.
5 He Believes He Is Haunted By A Ghost
The Weeknd is definitely in touch with the spiritual world. A few years ago, he attempted to launch his own major record label named Kissland but it flopped. He then decided a change of scenery would be better and moved to L.A. However, just to add to his misery he chose a rental in Hollywood Hills thats haunted. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine he revealed, "I've had sleep paralysis. I hear voices sometimes. I heard the Hills are over Indian burial ground."
His track In The Night sings about a ghost, he opens with "All alone, she was livin'. In a world without an end or beginnin'" and the rest of the song has themes of a woman being "trapped" in a darkness. He revealed in an interview with Billboard magazine that the tragic life of Marilyn Monroe had originally inspired the track. He said, "(Our) studio used to be Marilyn Monroe’s old house and I came up with the concept for a song called In the Night in her bedroom. That was pretty amazing."
4 He Is A Huge Michael Jackson Fan
One artist The Weeknd constantly references to throughout many of his songs is the late legend Michael Jackson. The King of Pop inspired The Weeknd's rise to musical fame and he told Rolling Stone magazine, "Michael, man, that guy was the star. He invented the star. There will never be another Michael," he added, "I want to make it very clear that I’m not trying to be Michael. He’s everything to me, so you’re going to hear it in my music."
The Weeknd covered Jackson's Dirty Diana and he has been compared endlessly to his hero. The song Can't Feel My Face is considered a hit on par with Jackson's Billie Jean, the pre chorus "She told me, "don't worry about it. She told me you'll never be alone, oh, oh, woo" he directly channels his inner alter ego who he has admired since a young age. He said, "People forget—'We Are the World' is for Ethiopia. At home, if it wasn't Ethiopian music, it was Michael. He was our icon."
3 He Identifies With Himself As A Bird
On one of his original mixtapes, The Weeknd sings on his songs The Birds (Part 1) and The Birds (Part 2) how he feels as if he is a free soul and can't be pinned down. He has always made it clear that he's a guy after one night stands and takes flight easily. The lyrics that confirm this is when he sings, "I swear I'm just a bird. Girl, I'm just another bird."
For his track The Party & The Afterparty, The Weeknd refrences once again how he personifies himself as a bird. He sings, "You always come to the partiesTo pluck the feathers off all the birds" here he is talking about one woman in particular who attempts to get the guys around him to fall into relationships, the "pluck" of the "feathers" meaning that she won't them fly away from her. Another metaphor he plays on is the clipping of wings, when a bird has their flight feathers clipped they are no longer fully flighted.
2 His Addiction To Paying For Love
There is no denying that The Weeknd enjoys the company of women - especially call girls. He told Rolling Stone magazine that he lost his virginity aged just 16-years-old (to a girl much older than when after he snuck into a college toga party) and since then it's been pretty much a non-stop party in his bedroom. The modern day Lothario revealed, "I don't want to sound like that guy where sex is not an obstacle. But I've had a lot of sex."
On the track Adaption he sings, "Adapted to these models. Who's adapted to the bottle. They take it down like water. Just to burn away their sorrows" in reference to the models he would invite back to his hotel room - that they were never truly happy. Then on the track Tears In The Rain he sings about his loneliness in the verse, "They all feel the same, Adjust to the fame, Cause no one will love you, like her."
1 His Love For Bella Hadid
Early 2015, everything changed for The Weeknd when he met the love of his life, 18-year-old model Bella Hadid - sister of Gigi Hadid and daughter of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Youlanda Hadid. We're not quite sure exactly what spell she cast over him, but he managed to leave his old life of call girls and drugs behind to settle down.
On his track Acquainted he sings about her as he reveals, "You got me puttin' time in, time in. Nobody got me feeling this way. You probably think I'm lying, lying. I'm used to b****s comin' right 'way." Also during an interview with The New York Times, when asked if he was “in love,” he replied: "It’s no, it’s yes, it’s maybe. It’s about me being who I am and stepping out of my comfort zone to try to feel something else besides what I’ve been feeling the past four years."
Bella herself adds that she survives dating a former international playboy by not identifying him as his alter ego. She told Elle magazine, "I'm dating Abel. I don't see him as The Weeknd. I'm proud of The Weeknd and the music he makes, but I really love Abel."