The Weeknd — also known as Scarborough, Ont.’s own Abel Tesfaye — was deeply affected by many of the terrible things that defined 2020. He’s been vocal about his anguish over racial injustice and police brutality, using his VMA win in August as a platform to demand justice for Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake.
Throughout the year, he also donated several million dollars to causes including Black Lives Matter, criminal justice reform, bail funds for people arrested protesting racism and police brutality, COVID-19 relief funds, victims of the Beirut explosions, and frontline workers at Scarborough Health Network.
It’s not surprising, then, that the year’s hardships will show up in his music.
In a new zine published by the British music and culture magazine tmrw, The Weeknd talked the difference this particular year has had on his creative process. He released the album “After Hours” this spring, and under normal circumstances would have been touring. But the pandemic forced him to postpone his tour until next summer — which gave him more time to work on his next album.
Watch the video for “Blinding Lights,” from The Weeknd’s 2020 album “After Hours.” Story continues after video.
“I have been more inspired and creative during the pandemic than I might normally be while on the road,” he told tmrw.
He also said the past year has made him more aware of the good things in his life. “The pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement and the tensions of the election have mostly created a sense of gratitude for what I have and closeness with the people near me.”
The Weeknd started releasing music in late 2010, when he was just 20. In early 2011, The New York Times marvelled at the three songs he had released, calling them, “a marvel of texture, drawing from the aching moans of screw music and the sexual impulses of early 1990s new jack swing, all buried in a hazy cloud that’s part too-cool affectation, part bleeding-out puddle.”
Now 30, the Weeknd is proud of the work he’s created over the last decade.
“I was laser focused back then and I’m laser focused right now,” he told tmrw. “This has been the story of my 20s. I feel like I spent the last 10 years creating a sound and most of my career I’ve either been running away from it or duplicating it.”
His latest album “After Hours,” he said, “was the perfect piece of art for me to show my tenure in the industry.”
Watch: Drake voices support for The Weeknd after Grammys snub.