Looking forward to The Weeknd

By Ana Lopez

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The Weeknd, the stage name for Abel Tesfaye, takes on Boston as one stop on his “The Fall” tour, aptly named after one of his popular songs. Tesfaye will be taking the stage at the Orpheum Theater on both Oct. 10 and 11.

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In early 2010, Tesfaye uploaded the tracks “The Morning,” “What You Need” and “Loft Music” to YouTube under the pseudonym The Weeknd. These tracks were the result of Tesfaye, who was 20 years old at the time, freestyling over producer Jeremy Rose’s instrumentals. Ultimately, Rose scrapped the songs they had been working on and allowed Tesfaye to keep them as long as he was credited.

Eventually, buzz built up through word of mouth and quickly hyped The Weeknd up and caught the attention of fellow Canadian rapper, Drake. Tesfaye was then invited to perform at small clubs in the Toronto area and was eventually featured on a song with Drake at the second annual October’s Very Own festival, in which he continued to generate a fan base.

Tesfaye refused to conduct interviews and only communicated with the press via Twitter. By Dec.2011, The Weeknd had released a trilogy of free mixtapes on his website. The third of these, “Echoes of Silence,” was critically acclaimed and was nominated for the Canadian Polaris Music Prize. Tesfaye then entered the United States and made a name for himself at Coachella Music Festival in April 2012, receiving excellent reviews from Rolling Stone.

After a 2012 performance in the UK, what has come to be known as the “Balloons Trilogy” of his mixtapes had been downloaded a reported 8 million times. At this point, The Weeknd signed to Republic Records in cohesion with his own imprint label XO.

His first release from the label was a remastered album consisting of his three mixtapes, “House of Balloons,” “Thursday” and “Echoes of Silence,” as well as three new songs. Since his 2011 debut, Tesfaye has been nominated for 12 awards, winning six, including the Juno Awards “Breakthrough Artist of the Year” and “R&B/Soul Recording Artist of the Year.” At the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, he was nominated for “Artist to Watch” and “Best Visual Effects” for his radio-popularized hit “Wicked Games.”

Tesfaye’s remarkable range and falsetto quickly grabbed the attention of listeners, who began to look for more of this melancholic tone. His sound is unique, centering on slow tempos, trembling echoes and throbbing bass. Most of his songs carry an anxious tone, as he sings about drugs, partying and women. He differs from other R&B artists in that the way he sings about partying as though it were an existential experience, and he questions himself in his decisions as he comes down from a mix of substances. Much of his lyrics express his vulnerability when he is on drugs and his quasi-pity for the women he ropes into sleeping with him because they are as drugged up as he is.

His style of singing exceptionally vulgar lyrics in a soft falsetto that sounds more haunting than harsh as it may for other R&B artists, taking note from R. Kelly. The Weeknd will be performing at the Orpheum Theatre in Boston at 8:30 p.m.

 

Ana Lopez can be reached at aelopez.umass.edu.