Photos: The Wild, Improbable Rise of the Weeknd - Rolling Stone
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Photos: The Wild, Improbable Rise of the Weeknd

Photos from 2011 to now show how he’s built one of pop’s most singular careers

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 23: In this image released on May 23, The Weeknd performs for the 2021 Billboard Music Awards, broadcast on May 23, 2021 at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for dcp)LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 23: In this image released on May 23, The Weeknd performs for the 2021 Billboard Music Awards, broadcast on May 23, 2021 at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for dcp)

Rich Fury/Getty Images

The Weeknd began 2022 with a bold announcement. “Happy New Year! Everything feels chaotic again. Music can heal and that feels more important than another album rollout,” he typed in a text-message screenshot on Instagram. “Let’s just drop the whole thing and enjoy it with the people… XO.” Days later, he followed through with a full title and tracklist for Dawn FM, his fifth studio album, out Jan. 7.

That kind of confidence comes naturally for someone who can count on near-certain streaming success for anything he releases. But it’s also part of what got him those hits in the first place. Abel Tesfaye does things his own way — whether that meant hiding his face in 2011, singing about how he couldn’t feel it in 2015, or wrapping it in stage bandages in 2020. His moody, character-driven songwriting has exerted a huge influence on the sound of pop over the past decade, but he’s also collaborated with glossy Top 40 monoliths like Max Martin when it suits him. Here are 24 photos that trace one of modern music’s most remarkable careers.

In This Article: The Weeknd

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