The Weeknd is the stage name of Canadian singer, songwriter, and record producer Abel Makkonen Tesfaye. He got recognition after posting many of his songs on YouTube under the username 'The Weeknd'. Inspired by legendary Michael Jackson to become a singer, he was later influenced by R&B stars like Aaliyah, Missy Elliott, Timbaland and The Neptunes. He started his career with mixtapes that he released from his own website for free. His three mixtapes, 'House of Balloons', 'Thursday', and 'Echoes of Silence', helped him create a loyal fan base. All of his studio albums were received with positive reviews. Suffering from shyness and insecurity as a child, Tesfaye made conscious efforts to shun publicity during his early career. He avoided giving interviews and didn't even use his own image in his mixtape covers. He interacted with his fans on Twitter. However, he gained confidence as his songs started to top charts worldwide. He has so far worked with stars like Kanye West, Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran, Kendrick Lamar and Drake. Tesfaye, who wants to be remembered for being unique and different, started with his Jean-Michel Basquiat-inspired hairstyle, which is his most recognizable feature.
Childhood & Early Life
The Weeknd was born to Makkonen and Samra Tesfaye on 16 February 1990, in Scarborough, Ontario. He is the only child of his parents who moved from Ethiopia to Canada in the 1980s.
He was brought up by his mother and maternal grandmother, and doesn't remember his father who left the family when he was one or two. His mother worked as a nurse and caterer to support the family, attending night school at the same time.
His first language is Amharic, which he learned from his grandmother. He also became fluent in French from the French-immersion class he attended till eighth grade.
During his childhood, he attended two schools, West Hill Collegiate Institute and Birchmount Park Collegiate Institute. However, he got kicked out of one and dropped out of the other after six months. He then left home and started to live with two of his friends in a one-bedroom house at 65 Spencer Avenue.
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The Weeknd's career in music started when he met producer Jeremy Rose. The two soon began working on an R&B album titled 'The Weekend'. However, the three songs Tesfaye created for him, 'What You Need', 'Loft Music', and 'The Morning', were not used by Rose.
In 2010, Tesfaye created a YouTube channel with the username 'The Weeknd' and uploaded the three songs. The songs gained popularity quickly and were also mentioned in a blog post featuring songs by rapper Drake.
He released his first mixtape, 'House of Balloons', on March 21, 2011. It contained nine tracks, including the songs he created for Rose. The mixtape was selected as a nominee for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize.
He started to perform live within a few months and began collaborative work with Drake as a vocalist. On 18 August 2011, he released another mixtape titled 'Thursday', containing nine tracks.
His third mixtape was 'Echoes of Silence', released on 21 December 2011. This one also contained nine songs and completed the 'Balloons Trilogy'. The three mixtapes together skyrocketed his fame and made him a star within a year.
In April 2012, he and his band started performing at various festivals throughout US and Europe. Starting with the Coachella Festival at California, he went on to perform at Primavera Sound Festivals in Spain and Portugal and Wireless Festival in London.
He signed a deal with Republic Records in September 2012 and, in a joint venture with his own imprint XO, released a compilation album named 'Trilogy' the next month. The album contained all the tracks from his three mixtapes, along with three additional entries.
In September 2013, he released his debut studio album, 'Kiss Land', which received positive reviews from critics. His longtime collaborator Drake made guest appearance in the song 'Live For'.
In 2013, he contributed to the soundtrack of the Hollywood movie 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'. He then accompanied Justin Timberlake on his 'The 20/20 Experience World Tour'.
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In 2014, he collaborated with Ariana Grande on the duet 'Love Me Harder'. Later that year, he released the song 'Earned It', from the soundtrack of the movie 'Fifty Shades of Grey'.
In August 2015, he released his second studio album 'Beauty Behind the Madness'. The album, which contained five songs, featured guest appearances from Labrinth, Ed Sheeran and Lana Del Rey. The album also included his song 'Earned It'.
'Starboy', his third studio album, was released on November 25, 2016. Like his previous albums, it also featured guest appearances from famous musicians like Daft Punk, Lana Del Rey, Future, and Kendrick Lamar.
In 2016, he worked with Kanye West's on the song 'FML' from Kanye's album 'The Life of Pablo'. The same year, he also appeared on the song '6 Inch' from Beyoncé's album 'Lemonade'.
The Weeknd's compilation album 'Trilogy' peaked at No. 5 on the Canadian Albums Chart and No. 4 on the U.S. 'Billboard' 200. Within a week of its release, it sold 86,000 copies. It eventually reached platinum status in America and double platinum status in Canada.
His debut studio album 'Kiss Land' peaked at number two on the U.S. 'Billboard' 200 chart. With a sale of 96,000 copies, it trailed the top ranking album by only two thousand copies.
'Beauty Behind the Madness' is his most successful album, earning him multiple awards and nominations. It became the tenth best-selling album of 2015, with 1.5 million copies sold worldwide, and has sold over two million copies in the United States so far.
Awards & Achievements
In 2015, The Weeknd joined the ranks of Elvis Presley, The Beatles and Taylor Swift after his track 'The Hills' replaced his other chart-topping single, 'Can't Feel My Face', on the 'Billboard' Hot 100 chart. He is the 12th person to have two tracks back-to-back on the top of the list.
In 2015, his album 'Beauty Behind the Madness' won two Grammy Awards for 'Best Urban Contemporary Album' and 'Best R&B Performance'. His song, 'Earned It', which was included in the album, earned him an Academy Award nomination.
The album 'Starboy' received positive reviews from critics and debuted at number one on the 'Billboard' 200 chart. It became the top album in 80 countries within a day of its release.
Personal Life & Legacy
The Weeknd has been in a relationship with runway model Bella Hadid since early 2015. She also appeared in his music video 'In the Night'. However, they reportedly broke up in late 2016 due to conflicting schedules.
In early 2017, he sparked rumors of dating pop star Selena Gomez. Apparently, they have come close while working on a project together.
The Weeknd is also a philanthropist. He has provided monetary support to various causes including $250,000 donation to the Black Lives Matter movement.