King of the Fall; The rise of The Weeknd


Ethan Miller

The Weeknd performs at the 2015 iHeartRadio Music Festival at MGM Grand Garden Arena on September 19, 2015 in Las Vegas.

Four years ago, Canadian-born Ethiopian Abel Tesfaye, otherwise known as The Weeknd, was randomly releasing mixtapes with a couple of his friends and as over 18,000 people filled the Verizon Center on November 15th, I wondered as to how this came about. As someone who has listened to his music since his second mixtape, Thursday, his rapid rise to fame in the past year has been an unexpected and thrilling one. Seven grammy nominations later, The Weeknd has solidified his place as one of the biggest stars in the music industry.

The Weeknd started his career as an anonymous artist. No one knew who he was, what he looked like or if he was even a band. Anytime I would bring him up in middle school, I would get causal jokes of  “Saturday” or “Sunday.” After dropping out of high school with his best friend, Lamar Taylor, he released three mixtapes, House of Balloons, Thursday and Echoes of Silence in an apartment he rented in downtown Toronto with Taylor and others. The mixtapes quickly caught the attention of fellow Canadian Drake and his camp, who then posted a link to The Weeknd’s music on his blog. This relationship between the two eventually led to Tesfaye working on Drake’s 2011 sophomore album Take Care, which went on to win a Grammy. Tesfaye was already starting to gain a lot of buzz on his own, but Drake’s cosign helped him reach an even wider audience. Drake even allowed Tesfaye to perform at his annual OVO Festival in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Tesfaye was on the radar of labels since the release of his mixtapes, but after fans saw his effect on Take Care, his demand increased exponentially. At first, he wouldn’t budge; it was nearly impossible for a label to speak to him, being that Tesfaye was against signing to a major label at the time. Eventually, Tesfaye signed with Republic Records under his own label XO and hasn’t looked back since. His first release was a repackaged version of his past three mixtapes remastered and with three new songs called Trilogy. Around the same time, The Weeknd was starting to gain more popularity performing at major summer festivals such as Coachella. Tesfaye came back about a year later with his first studio album, Kiss Land in 2013, landing at the number two spot on Billboard’s Hot 200.

While its reception was generally positive, Tesfaye was still not satisfied and immediately started working to release more music. His slow rise in popularity started in 2014 with the releases of singles “Love Me Harder,” a collaboration with labelmate Ariana Grande, and “Earned It” for the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack.

The start of summer means the start of the festival season for music lovers, and this year The Weeknd dominated it, headlining gigs such as Coachella, Sweetlife, Lollapalooza, Made in America and many more, made in America being his biggest gig where he co-headlined with Beyoncé.

His second album Beauty Behind The Madness, which charted in over 40 countries, has also sold about 800,000 copies since its release in August of this year. Songs like “Can’t Feel My Face,” “The Hills” and his recent release “In the Night” have all been getting an increasing amount of attention from radio stations, and in testament to his rising popularity, his promoting tour sold out in less than a month.

Tesfaye has had a phenomenal year marked with platinum records and the best part to me is that, the world hasn’t even seen all of his potential yet; there’s so much more to come.