No rest for The Weeknd.
Abel Tesfaye covers Billboard's “Year in Music” issue this week, opening up about overcoming stage fright, paparazzi and jumping back into the recording studio to craft new music.
His new LP Starboy is only two weeks old, but The Weeknd is already back to work.
“After this album’s done, we’ll be working. I have ideas and songs that I want to get out of my head,” he tells Billboard. "I wanted to drop Starboy as soon as possible [after Beauty Behind the Madness] just to show that this is what I love doing: making music. It’s very natural, very real. There was a lot of thought behind it, but I did it frantically, very fast, off the fumes of Beauty."
Weeknd also opens up about the creative influences he tapped on his new record, his upcoming Legend Of The Fall tour and how he releases music.
On Starboy: “I tried to find different registers that I hadn’t sung in before. I sang a lot of low stuff on songs like “Secrets” and ‘Rockin’,’ almost like Toni Braxton. On ‘Secrets,’ I’m a different person. I’ve played it for people, and they have no idea it’s me. I even wanted to make an entire album where it was all very ‘Vogue’-inspired, music like Frankie Knuckles and Chicago house. That was the initial idea for ‘Rockin’,’ which is one of the first ones I finished for the album.”
Hip-Hop influence: “The vibe on ‘Starboy’ comes from that hip-hop culture of braggadocio, from Wu-Tang and 50 Cent, the kind of music I listened to as a kid. Bragging just sounds good, man. I was a teenager when I saw Scarface, and even though it was unbelievable, it’s kind of cool Tony Montana could survive all those gunshots and not feel them. And there’s more than one way to do hip-hop culture. For the chorus of “Secrets,” we used The Romantics’ ‘Talking in Your Sleep’ and ‘Pale Shelter’ by Tears for Fears. It’s like hip-hop: Just grab it. We could have done the interpolation thing, but sampling the original gets the feel.”
Kanye West: “Es Devlin does my set design now. She has done Kanye, Beyoncé, Adele, U2. Her real passion is theater and opera. She looks at the job different than every other set designer. It’s art — it’s not about lighting or crazy effects. It’s about what you’re looking at, and the audience is part of that moment. It’s very three-dimensional. Look at Kanye’s [‘Saint Pablo’] shows — he changed the game. We’re looking at floor seats differently now in arena shows. I want to animate the space like that on this tour.”
Musical inspirations: “It’s almost schizophrenic, who I portray in my music. The vibe just represents how I feel, what relationship I’m going through, what friendships I’m going through, the success in my life, the failures in my life. It is all just documentation. I’m not going to sit here and just sing about making love, even though my favorite artists, that’s all they sing about.”
His label: “My deal with the label is pretty much a partnership, it’s like a distribution deal. But you know they’re my label, they’re my partners, they ride for me. They really respect me as an artist. My shit is all mine. I own all my music.”