The Weeknd - also known as Abel Makkonen Tesfaye - just released his latest studio album Dawn FM. It feels like just yesterday when we were boogieing to After Hours, and now a whole new record full of 80s, Michael Jackson-esque bops are on the table! We don't know how The Weeknd works so fast (he's also juggling pre-production of his new TV show!), but we're glad he does.
Tesfaye was born to Ethiopian parents in Canada. He lived with his grandmother as a child, and has described his teen years as being like the film "Kids without the AIDS." After posting songs to YouTube, he picked up traction after collaborating with producer Jeremy Rose on songs that would become "What You Need," "Loft Music," and "The Morning." Eventually, Drake was spreading the news about Tesfaye on his blog. The rest is history!
To celebrate The Weeknd's success, we're counting down our top 10 favorite tracks by the musician. In addition to old classics, we'll also be including bops from Dawn FM! Without further ado, here are our picks.
10. "Can't Feel My Face"
You know an artist is extremely talented when you have to put a great song of theirs last in a top 10 list. Not because it's a bad song - but because they've improved so much over the years. We've been bopping to "Can't Feel My Face" since 2015, and it's a testament to The Weeknd's genius that we have to put it last on our list.
Whether you love it for its heavy bassline, romantic lyrics, or the fact that it's most likely a personification of drug addiction, it's hard not to dance to "Can't Feel My Face." It eventually reached #1 on the Billboard 100 chart for three nonconsecutive weeks, and marked The Weeknd's transition from a niche R&B artist to a bona fide pop star.
9. "Out of Time"
Sleek! Sensual! Soothing! "Out of Time" is a stellar cut off Dawn FM that reminds us of late nights. Like many of the songs from the new album, it's about The Weeknd realizing mistakes in his relationship and asking his love for a second chance.
We love "Out of Time" for how rich it feels. The harmonies and gorgeous synths give so much depth to what could have been a simple love song. It also reminds us of 80s and early 90s slow jams, as well as a bit of 70s disco. "Out of Time" feels, quite simply...timeless.
8. "I Feel It Coming (feat. Daft Punk)"
Wildly enough, this 2017 hit also feels like it could come off Dawn FM. It has the same 80s and early 90s influence and synth sound. The only difference? It's produced by Daft Punk.
"I Feel It Coming" was a noteworthy song from The Weeknd when it first dropped due to its different attitude about love. Before this track, The Weeknd's songs about relationships typically revolved around one night stands and fooling around. However, "I Feel It Coming" is The Weeknd asking for a romantic, committed type of love. From the dance-able beat to the vocoder solo from his robot collaborators (R.I.P. Daft Punk!), "I Feel It Coming" is a straight-up classic.
7. "Wicked Games"
A fan favorite oldie from The Weeknd, "Wicked Games" explores a romance that is born to fail. Despite knowing it will fail, Tesfaye dives into the connection because he wants the confidence that comes with it.
"Wicked Games" is part of House of Balloons and is beloved for its songwriting prowess. It was the first track of The Weeknd's released to radio. It hit platinum status in 2013 and was also featured in the film "Southpaw." Even more, it was covered by Game of Thrones composer Ramin Djiwadi. For many fans, this song is the first they've heard by The Weeknd.
6. "House of Balloons / Glass Table Girls"
The title track off House of Balloons, this dark and dance-y track famously samples Siouxsie and the Banshee's "Happy House." "House of Balloons / Glass Table Girls" describes a drug-induced party scene, most likely going on in his former house on 65 Spencer. The second part of the song hones in on specific drug activity. The Weeknd's old house was one of the many influences for House of Balloons, and he told Rolling Stone he used to throw parties at his place all the time.
"House of Balloons / Glass Table Girls" is one for the OG Weeknd fans. To our delight, he gave us a little nod to the track during his iconic Super Bowl performance last year.
5. "The Hills"
This dramatic jam was originally nicknamed “Mood Music” and was first teased in a live performance at SXSW. The narrative of “The Hills” is a sinking sexual affair. Tesfaye sets the record straight about what his lover means to him, and reminds her that she plays an equally guilty part in the doomed romance.
On the Billboard Hot 100 dated October 3, 2015, “The Hills” reached #1 on the chart, dethroning The Weeknd's own “Can’t Feel My Face.” With the feat, Tesfaye became only the 11th artist to replace himself at #1, and the 2nd artist to top the chart with a lead single after the second single was released. (Rihanna did it in 2010 with lead single “Only Girl (In The World)” and second single “What’s My Name.") It became The Weeknd's longest-running #1 song, staying on the chart for six weeks.
4. "Less Than Zero"
Our favorite tune from Dawn FM! Of all the tracks on the radio station-esque album, we think this one actually has the best potential of reaching Top 40.
Critics and fans alike have hailed "Less Than Zero" for its upbeat feel, sad narrative about a girl who perceives him as being less than nothing, and of course, that infectious synth staircase of rising notes. You feel something between joy, nostalgia, despair, and hope on this track.
It evokes a lot out of listeners. Especially with the explosive chorus! We can't get this out of our heads.
3. "Save Your Tears"
Another song where Tesfaye addresses a past relationship and the emotions him and his ex-lover went through. This song is one of the more 80s, synth-heavy tracks featured on After Hours compared to the muddier tracks heard around the album's middle.
"Save Your Tears" has been one of The Weeknd's more commercially successful songs, especially after the remix with Ariana Grande was released in early 2021. And who can forget that stunning performance of the song he did with those cars in the huge parking lot at the 2021 Billboard Music Awards? We'd cry from the sheer joy if we watched it again, but we'll save our tears for another day.
2. "Starboy (feat. Daft Punk)"
The title track of The Weeknd's third studio album, this groovy song has The Weeknd reflecting upon his mega-stardom. Like "I Feel It Coming," this song also features production from French electronic duo Daft Punk, marking the first collaboration between The Weeknd and the robots. The three decided to join forces after some studio time together.
It's almost impossible for this song to get old. Between the dark-yet-dance-worthy vibes, the vocoded vocal background, the subtle piano instrumentals, and The Weeknd's overall energy, "Starboy" emits a confidence that can't be ignored. Along with an iconic music video that sees Tesfaye using a glowing cross almost like a lightsaber, "Starboy" is a certified classic. And without a doubt, it turned The Weeknd into a bright star that wouldn't be leaving the public eye for a long time.
1. "Blinding Lights"
Between its commercial and critical success, putting "Blinding Lights" at #1 was a no-brainer. The track finds Tesfaye in a constant state of distraction that he only gets relief from when in the presence of his lover. There's crime, fame, and loneliness involved. Yet with the glow of exuberant sounds you hear, the track feels more electrifying than flashing Las Vegas lights.
In "Blinding Lights," The Weeknd sings over an orchestra of up-tempo electropop that features large ‘80s-inspired synths and synthwave drums. It's actually quite similar to the sounds of Starboy. Perhaps that's why this song has fared so well.
As The Weeknd's performance from the Super Bowl proved, "Blinding Lights" is a stadium smash. During the week ending December 14, 2019, “Blinding Lights” debuted at #11 on the Hot 100. During the week ending April 4, 2020, the song peaked at #1 on the chart, becoming The Weeknd's fifth chart-topper.
This song was everywhere: from Mercedes-Benz commercials, to the radio, and even sung by a hilarious YouTube cat. And yet somehow, it hasn't gotten stale for us. There's so many components to "Blinding Lights" that makes it an undeniable hit, but we feel there's one main factor behind its success - the bubbling pep and joy it immediately fills listeners with.
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Article Image: The Weeknd performing in front of a black background in Spain in 2017. (Christian Bertrand via Shutterstock.)