Where modern popular music is concerned, nobody quite hits the mark with dark, melancholic lament in the same way that Canadian singer-songwriter Abel Makkonen Tesfaye has.
Most popularly known under his stage name, The Weeknd, the span of his influence within contemporary pop culture has been nothing short of immense, with a string of glittering accolades that include four Grammy wins, twenty Billboard Music Awards, twenty-two Juno Awards, six American Music Awards, two MTV Music Video Awards, and a Latin Grammy Award.
Additionally, he bears the distinction of being the first artist to reach 100 million streams on Spotify in March 2023, as certified by the Guinness Book of Records.
The Weeknd hints at final hurrah with his next album
In spite of the magnitude of success that the 33-year-old has savoured under his stage name of 13 years, Tesfaye has suggested in an interview with W Magazine that his upcoming album may potentially be his final outing as The Weeknd. Describing the transition, he said “I’m going through a cathartic path right now. It’s getting to a place and a time where I’m getting ready to close the Weeknd chapter,”.
Of course, avid fans of The Weeknd may already have noted potential allusions to his desire to retire his on-stage persona since his 2016 hit Starboy, which saw the singer committing an apparent act of homicide on himself in a not-so-subtle potential allegory to rebirth in its music video.
This was then followed by more cues from the After Hours album, most prominently in the lead single from the album, Blinding Lights, where his alter-ego was left bruised, battered and bloodied. “I’ll still make music, maybe as Abel, maybe as The Weeknd. But I still want to kill The Weeknd. And I will. Eventually. I’m definitely trying to shed that skin and be reborn.” he explained.
A Cannes premier for The Idol
In which case, last year’s Dawn FM is shaping up to be the prelude for a swan song under his stage moniker, with Tesfaye saying “The album I’m working on now is probably my last hurrah as The Weeknd. This is something that I have to do. As The Weeknd, I’ve said everything I can say.”
But if anything, this is likely to represent more of an evolution in the multihyphenate’s creative trajectory as opposed to a curtain call from the limelight. For one, Tesfaye’s casting as sleazy, enigmatic club owner and cult leader Tedros in The Idol has resulted in an overwhelming reaction amid media outlets and fans alike.
The show however, appears to have shifted far from a self-described ‘feminist lens’ led by its former director, Amy Seimetz, which was meant to satirise the Hollywood music machine. Replaced by Sam Levinson of Euphoria fame, the series reportedly underwent a drastic overhaul from the ground up despite reaching roughly 80% completion to the tune of $75 million.
This was further exacerbated in the wake of a flurry of controversy that was raised by an expose on the show by Rolling Stone magazine from March of this year, with claims of overtly disturbing sexual and graphic scenes being filmed as well as workplace toxicity on set. HBO has since denied those allegations in a statement issued to Vanity Fair.
The Idol, which stars both Tesfaye and Lily-Rose Depp, is due to debut at the 76th Cannes Film Festival this month before airing on HBO on 4 June, 2023.
Feature and hero image credits: theweeknd/Instagram