One of the curses of being a millennial is that 60 years' worth of musicians got to go through the dictionary and cherry-pick their act's name before you got around to it. So when Abel Makkonen Tesfaye wanted to christen his dark R&B project the Weekend but discovered there was already a Canadian band that had copyrighted the name, he didn't give up. He followed in the footsteps of other members of Generation Autocorrect, like MGMT and STRFKR, and got creative with the spelling of his name.
The Weeknd's fans are obviously not spelling Nazis. Starting off with the seal of approval from his fellow Canadian, Drake, the Weeknd was selected to appear on two songs on The Hunger Games soundtrack before his first proper album, Kiss Land, even came out. By 2015, all the hype came to fruition with two number one hits: "The Hills" and his ode to cocaine, "Can't Feel My Face."
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His Prince- and Michael Jackson-influenced crooning over hypnotic beats gained him not only chart success but also admiration from his peers. Kanye West called him to contribute on The Life of Pablo. Beyoncé had him on Lemonade. And Daft Punk, Kendrick Lamar, and Lana Del Rey appeared on the Weeknd's aptly named third release, Starboy.
He changed things up on that album. "I tried to find different registers that I hadn’t sung in before," he said in an interview with Billboard. "I sang a lot of low stuff on songs like 'Secrets' and 'Rockin',' almost like Toni Braxton. On 'Secrets,' I’m a different person. I’ve played it for people, and they have no idea it’s me. I even wanted to make an entire album where it was all very 'Vogue'-inspired, music like Frankie Knuckles and Chicago house. That was the initial idea for 'Rockin’,' which is one of the first ones I finished for the album."
After a period of stage fright, the Weeknd is taking his show on an arena tour that stops at the BB&T Center Thursday, May 11. "Nowadays, with live music, you’re going against DJs and rappers singing over two tracks that are just banging. So when you come out as a band, you have to know your sound, know your front of house, and make sure you bang as hard," he said in the same interview about how he overcame his anxiety. "Environment is very important to me. Sometimes I have to perform during the day for festivals, and my music does not work in the daytime. It is nighttime music. When you come to my show, I want it to feel like opera, like a theater. The darkness is important for me."