The Weeknd Kicks Off

by Michelle Buchman (English), published October 17th 2011

At first, the only traces of The Weeknd on the Internet were three songs found on youtube. The tracks created a small buzz, but when a nine-track mixtape entitled House of Balloons surfaced on March 21, 2011, word of mouth began to spread. Abel Tesfaye aka The Weeknd saw a whirlwind response to his music. The artist was co-signed to Drake’s label, OVO XO, soon after the release of House of Balloons. To add more buzz and aura around his name, not much is known about Abel Tesfaye. In most early press shots of the singer released via Tumblr, his face is obscured or out of focus. Music blogs and magazines have learned that the Tesfaye, of Egyptian andEthiopian descent, hailed from Toronto but could not uncover much else about him.

The remarkable thing about The Weeknd is that all this Internet buzz occurred without a single live show to the singer’s credit. To date, Tesfaye has only played two shows as The Weeknd. The first occurred in Toronto on July 24 when tickets sold out in less than two hours and the second was one week later as part of Drake’s OVO Festival. The singer was recently supposed to make his first appearance in America at the launch party, but withdrew days later citing to fans and press he wasn’t quite ready to tackle the U.S. just yet.

In mid-August the second mixtape Thursday was released on the singer’s official website. There were reportedly over 180,000 downloads on the first day of release. Many fans complained about an inability to even get on The Weeknd’s website due to frequent server crashes, which forced the singer to upload multiple alternate links. Music blogs and mainstream press were not as impressed by the sophomore effort but still enjoyed the eerie, synth sound offered up in the tracks.

The question many ask right now is where The Weeknd plans to go from here. Tesfaye has been dropping hints online that a third mixtape will soon surface, possibly titled Echos of Silence. The mixtapes are moreso based around certain emotions and moods than subject matter. Abel Tesfaye elicits a bleak, haunting aura crafted from songs driven by drugs and girls. The singer’s falsetto voice adds a raw honesty many feel the R&B genre is currently lacking. Artists from the electronic community such as James Blake and Diplo have also praised The Weeknd for his minimalist, almost ambient-like tunes. Comparisons to British electronic musician Burial have been thrown around by several blogs such as Pitchfork, contributing more attention and credibility to Tesfaye’s music. The samples featured on songs span from indie to post-punk to r&b, offering up a gateway for fans of various music genres to get into The Weeknd’s sound.

Not every listener can relate to tales of parties and drugs, but the feelings of loneliness and heartache are easy to connect with. Looking towards the future, the artist will undoubtedly be recording new records of material, but the buzz and praise launched by the Internet have created hype that will introduce the singer to new audiences who otherwise may never have heard of The Weeknd at all.

Sound Fix

Have a feeling you’ve heard one of The Weeknd’s tracks before? The singer has sampled a wide range of artists and genres on his mixtapes.

Songs sampled:

“Rock the Boat” by Aaliyah on the track “What You Need”

“Happy House” by Siouxsie and the Banshees on the track “House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls”

“Master of None” by Beach House on the track “The Party & The After Party”

“Cherry Coloured Funk” by Cocteau Twins on the track “The Knowing”

“Gila” by Beach House on the track “Loft Music”

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