The Problem With… Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye

Posted by on March 18, 2012

It was 2:32 in the morning when I first discovered The Weeknd’s brilliant “House of Ballons” project. I remember exactly where I was when I first downloaded it. I was a second semester senior in college pulling an all-nighter in a hotel on the eve of my last final exam. Fast asleep in the bed next to me was a ladyfriend who I was dating at the time, sleeping soundly while I was enveloped by The Weeknd’s ethereal sound. I didn’t realize I would be listening to the man largely responsible for bringing credibility back to a genre ruined by celebratory anthems promoting debauchery and licentiousness.

Despite The Weeknd’s significant impact on the blogosphere, he’s encountered a problem. As The Weeknd continues to operate under a microscope, the mystique around his carefully crafted brand will slowly erode. At the core of his brand is a “smoke and mirrors” philosophy- a deliberate effort to avoid public appearances and interviews- going against the traditional marketing grain. His philosophy, although astute, can’t be a sustainable long term strategy. The Weeknd will eventually be required to step out of the alternate universe that he’s created for himself.

Performances also present a problem for The Weeknd. The mournful melodies and cerebral quality of his message doesn’t lend itself to the usual trappings of a live show. The Weeknd’s music is often experienced in private rather than with a group of friends. The private nature of his music makes it difficult to translate into an experience at a live show. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to be singing about glass tables girls next to a fellow bro. It just wouldn’t feel right.

Despite my own perspective, many questions remained unanswered about The Weeknd. Rumors have swirled about his sexuality, 11 million dollar record deal, and more. Whether a carefully crafted marketing ploy or happenstance, people are abuzz about the enigmatic artist, and understandably so. Perhaps most telling is his recently released “Rolling Stone” off his “Thursday” project. He cryptically croons, “Baby, I got you/ until you’re used to my face, and my mystery fades,” signaling that he may be more self-aware than previously thought. Only time will tell whether Abel will be able to maintain his image while inevitably becoming more mainstream.

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