By Scott T. Sterling
Thanks to a high-profile collaboration with Ariana Grande (“Love Me Harder”) and landing two brand-new songs on the soundtrack for Fifty Shades of Grey (including the sexy “Earned It,” which just hit No. 1), the public profile of R&B Lothario the Weeknd is at an all-time high.
It’s a bright and brilliant payoff for the artist born Abel Tesfaye, who’s been on a steady rise since officially hitting public consciousness back in March of 2011 with the release of his groundbreaking debut mixtape, House of Balloons.
A murky and mysterious trawl through a drug-soaked house party/orgy and the inevitable downcast aftermath, House of Balloons introduced the world to The Weeknd’s dark-lit aesthetic. House of Balloons was a critical favorite, but since then the Weeknd’s trajectory has taken on a unique duality. Subsequent releases (mixtapes Thursday and Echoes of Silence and, most significantly, full-length debut Kiss Land) seemed to push those same critical types further away, while at the same time, his mainstream appeal continued to rise.
To better understand the world of the Weeknd, let’s go through them one by one.