Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, a.k.a. The Weeknd had a great year in 2015 and the good fortune may continue well into 2016.
The Weeknd’s hit album Beauty Behind The Madness hung on to the No. 6 position in its 21st week on Billboard’s Top 200 albums chart. The release has sold 33,905 album equivalent units and it has been streamed more than 19 million times. Singles “The Hills” and “In The Night” are currently No. 5 and No. 6 on the Hip-Hop/RnB charts, the latter showing the biggest gains in airplay and performance this past week.
This comes after a year filled with firsts and accolades. Beauty Behind The Madness has received widespread acclaim and generated a string of No. 1 tracks along with seven Grammy nominations for The Weeknd, including album of the year. The Weeknd will be performing at the ceremony this year alongside Adele and Kendrick Lamar.
In September, The Weeknd garnered the rare “Triple Crown” honor as the first male artist to sit at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Billboard Artist 100 and Billboard 200 charts at the same time. Taylor Swift is the only other artist to achieve that level of chart domination. Between singles and the album release, The Weeknd has spent 47 weeks in the top ten.
His recent Oscar nod for the song “Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey)” from the film Fifty Shades of Grey saw another spike in his profile and sent the single back up to No. 2 on the Trending 140 charts. The momentum looks to continue to propel The Weeknd’s album and singles into record breaking territory.
The Weeknd is also one of the most enigmatic and unusual figures in pop music today, achieving this level of success without pursuing publicity; in fact, by shunning public exposure for much of his early career. Born in a suburb of Toronto, Canada, he became a cult-like figure in indie circles years before he ever had a recording contract or a hit single and without a mainstream profile. The Weeknd started out as a complete mystery to his fans, not granting interviews and only allowing darkened, obscured images of himself to be released.
The Weeknd began releasing his own music anonymously on Youtube in 2010, already penning the party lifestyle lyrics he is now known for along with his sweet high vocals. The first group of his songs were posted on October’s Very Own, the blog run by OVO Sound, the record label owned by fellow Torontonian Drake. The move put his work under the public eye and he quickly vaulted to popularity worldwide. The Weeknd worked on three songs for Drake’s 2011 release, Take Care. By 2011, The Weeknd was doing his own live performances, selling out venues like the Hollywood Bowl before he’d ever had a hit single. Pursued by a number of labels, he finally signed with Republic Records, a division of Universal Music Group, in 2012.
Beauty Behind The Madness signifies a change in direction for the reclusive artist, featuring more radio-friendly arrangements and song structures than The Weeknd had previously been known for. The Weeknd collaborated with Swedish hit-maker Max Martin, the producer responsible for a slew of hits from the likes of Britney Spears and Katy Perry for the release. The Weeknd insisted on continuing to write his own lyrics, resulting in an approach that remains true to his indie RnB roots while still offering chart-friendly appeal.
As his star rises, so has the public’s and media’s demands on The Weeknd, who has become a recognizable figure and the object of fan scrutiny along with girlfriend, model Bella Hadid.
[Photo by John Salangsang/Invision/AP]