The Weeknd aims to step out from behind the shadows, and into full-fledged pop stardom, on "Beauty Behind the Madness."
The Weeknd recently announced his new album, a sophomore effort to follow up Kiss Land, or his third album if you count Trilogy. The project, Beauty Behind the Madness, has already seen the success of two singles, "Can't Feel My Face" and "The Hills." In a new profile of Abel Tesfaye by The New York Times, we delve deeper into the once-mysterious singer's past, as well as the road leading up to Beauty Behind the Madness, and what to expect from it.
The article from Jon Caramanica (which he says on twitter was four years in the making) juxtaposes The Weeknd's desire to be worldwide famous, on the scale of Michael Jackson, against his penchant for obscurity, and coming to terms with the fact that he does he want to be a pop idol. Apparently, this was all in mind during the creation of BBHM, and it sounds a bit calculated, from The Weeknd's "50 Shades of Grey" hit "Earned It" to his Ariana Grande collaboration, "Love Me Harder," everything is leading up to that pop stardom desire.
The Weeknd admitted to wanting to change his tact, "I felt I had to change who I was," he told Caramanica in the profile. "These kids, you know, they don’t have a Michael Jackson. They don’t have a Prince. They don’t have a Whitney. Who else is there? Who else can really do it at this point?"
As the story continues, Tesfaye details growing up in Scarborough, Ontario, Ethiopian influences, dropping out of high school at 17, and doing just about any and every drug available to him, before properly transcending into The Weeknd, getting co-signs from OVO, and developing a cult following. Following Kiss Land's release, the singer was unimpressed with the numbers the record did. The head of urban A&R at his label, Wendy Goldstein, spoke on that impacting his decisions for the next LP: "The underperforming of that record in his own expectations of what it was supposed to do shook him to his core," Goldstein says. "I said, ‘You wanna be the biggest in the world?’ He said, ‘I absolutely wanna be the biggest in the world.’ "
This led to Goldstein tapping Max Martin for BBHM, as The Weeknd aimed to make pop records that still had his trademark sensibilities. "If I’m gonna be the biggest in the world," The Weeknd told Goldstein, ‘"I need a handful of songs like that." After Martin's team presented the singer with a bunch of pre-written material, The Weeknd rejected everything, and the two collaborated from scratch.
Nearing the end of the profile, we get to hear about the oft-rumored relationship The Weeknd has with model Bella Hadid. When asked if he's in love, he says, "I don’t know, to be honest with you. I don’t think so. Maybe. It’s no, it’s yes, it’s maybe."
As for the forthcoming, highly anticipated album: "It’s about me being who I am and stepping out of my comfort zone to try to feel something else besides what I’ve been feeling the past four years." He continued, "Ups and downs. In my past albums, there were never ups."
Beauty Behind the Madness drops August 28th. Read the full NY Times story here.