Who Is He
For Abel Tesfaye, an air of mystery has always been part of his mystique. Most people know him by his stage name, The Weeknd, but even those familiar with his name or his music don't know a lot about his personal life. And that seems to be exactly how he likes it. Tesfaye was born in Ontario to migrant Ethiopian parents. His father was rarely around when he was growing up and his mother worked so he turned to music. After dropping out of High School and anonymously uploading some music to YouTube, blogs and other artists began taking notice and The Weeknd was born. Rap superstar, Drake, heard his music and began to champion it, going as far as to have him guest on his album, Take Care. All through this rise to fame, Tesfaye refused to do press interviews, instead communicating to fans only through social media. As labels came calling, he signed a deal and continued to release his blend of dark, industrial R&B under a shroud of mystery. After a couple of years, however, The Weeknd decided he wanted to take a shot at pop stardom. His label had him sing a duet with Ariana Grande called "Love Me Harder" so that casual pop music fans would become familiar with his voice. "Earned It", from the multi-platinum Fifty Shades of Grey Soundtrack followed and soon, people were taking notice. Now armed with mega-producer, Max Martin, The Weeknd released Beauty Behind The Madness, selling over 400,000 copies in its debut week, a far cry from his anonymous YouTube days. With smash singles like "Can't Feel My Face" and "The Hills", his plan has worked and he is now setting chart records regularly.
What Are His Messages
The Weeknd is insanely talented. He has a stunning, unique voice, an ear for supremely catchy melodies and an artistic visual aesthetic in all his work. However, his content is almost always marked by three things; drugs, casual sex and darkness. Whether it's the BDSM-lite come-ons of "Earned It" or the tossed-off admission to sleeping with as many women as possible on ‘Tell Your Friends", The Weeknd almost treats sex like a necessary evil; something he does all the time but doesn't necessarily enjoy. "Can't Feel My Face" is a delightful sounding throwback smash hit, but its content is deceptively dark, alluding to rampant drug use in an unhealthy relationship with a woman who he doesn't actually care about that much. "The Hills" accurately sums up what almost every one of his songs seem to convey with lines including, "I only love it when you touch me, not feel me" and "Always trying to send me off to rehab / Drugs started feeling like it's decaf". The Weeknd is searching for something and filling his heart with every dark and carnal pleasure around but at the end of it all, he still finds himself feeling dark, empty and utterly alone.
What Does A Youthworker Need2Know
The Weeknd's ascension to legitimate superstar is alarming, but not surprising. Modern culture, and especially modern youth culture, has a fixed obsession with darkness and emptiness. Everything imaginable is available for consumption and yet, it only breeds more emptiness and loneliness. The Weeknd represents that mindset in musical form. Many of your students are likely very familiar with his music but may be completely unaware of the dark lyrical content. Many of his songs would provide a perfect avenue through which to discuss depression, sex, drugs and alcohol and ultimately, the truth that we can try and fill our lives with endless pleasures, but the only true satisfaction found in life is through Christ.
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