Balloons To Hills: The Weeknd’s Rise From Cult Indie Hero To Budding International Superstar

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Ever since Abel Tesfaye catapulted into cult critical acclaim in 2011, it has been challenging to differentiate between the man with origins from Scarborough, Ontario and the artist birthed from Toronto’s downtown life who goes by the name of The Weeknd. A smoky haze of mystery surrounded The Weeknd in his breakout year when he released three widely celebrated mixtapes in House Of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes Of Silence. The meshing of The Weeknd’s angelic crooning of late night debauchery and a dark molding of moody atmospheric production created by Illangelo and Doc McKinney made a monumental impact on ‘alternative R&B’ music. However, if the past few years have proved anything, it is that The Weeknd is bound by no musical classifications; it is his goal to take his variety of influences and use them to build his own self-defining genre. The transition from unknown Drake-cosigned talent to globally recognized celebrity, with enough pull to premiere his single “Can’t Feel My Face” at Apple’s WWDC conference, has been a remarkable journey to witness. And after evaluating The Weeknd’s recent artistic trajectory and his latest records, it is becoming more and more evident that his next album will be a career-defining body of work.

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The Weeknd’s music has always been fueled by documentations of emotionally driven escapades on a never-ending road in search of pleasure (or numbing pain) in the midst of noncommittal relationships. His lyrics have eloquently described this wild lifestyle with metaphorical messages personifying love, drug intake, and his rise in fame. The contrasting feelings of confidence/low self-esteem and romantic indifference/heartbreak captured the hearts and minds of The Weeknd’s diehard fan-base that worship the Trilogy as an epic life-changing masterpiece. But after the release of his official debut studio album Kiss Land, which had a live-friendly worldly appeal yet was met with mixed reviews, Abel aficionados were faced with the uncertainty of what was in store for the future. A fair share of rap-centric features and trap-influenced promotional singles (“Often”, “KOTF”) pleased the more open-minded crowd yet worried Trilogy adorers, but it wasn’t until September of last year that we received a true telling sign of The Weeknd’s artistic direction.

Nobody would have ever thought in 2011 that The Weeknd would collaborate with a singer such as Ariana Grande. But that is exactly what happened with the release of smash-hit “Love Me Harder”, a celebrated duet filled with sexual double entendres and an undeniable chemistry between the two Republic signed artists (which was no coincidence). The Weeknd found himself in uncharted territory on the radio with his cleverly composed feature, and he hasn’t relinquished his spot on the charts since then. The Toronto singer found even more success with “Earned It”, the heavily promoted lead single from the soundtrack of box-office leader Fifty Shades Of Grey. The catchy, orchestral song proved to be a perfect match for the film as The Weeknd took on a less explicit tone, wavering between classy and predatorial in its content. These two offerings introduced The Weeknd in a whole new light to a more general audience, and now there is a diverse set of eyes on Abel as he gets set to rollout his “third chapter”.

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