Photo by Philip Cosores
The Weeknd, aka Abel Tesfaye, is not your average R&B star. This much has been clear since his breakout 2015 album Beauty Behind the Madness and its lead single “Can’t Feel My Face”, a slippery slice of disco-funk that gorged itself on pop classicism and futurism all at once. If his recent cover story with VMAN is any indication, Tesfaye’s music is about to get even more interesting. Speaking with the magazine about his forthcoming, as-yet-untitled album, he had this to say:
“The production feels aggressive but still sexy. The Smiths, Bad Brains, Talking Heads, Prince, and DeBarge play roles. We wrote it all in Los Angeles. I think it’ll be the best-sounding album I’ve ever done. It’s hard to label the sound because, when I first came out, nobody would label it R&B. I just want to keep pushing the envelope without it feeling forced.”
Some of the influences he cited (The Smiths, Prince) have been a part of The Weeknd’s sound for some time, but it will be interesting to see how Tesfaye plans to incorporate hardcore punk and new wave into the mix. (Danny Brown’s latest, Atrocity Exhibition, is also said to be inspired by Talking Heads and post-punk bands like Joy Division. Wonder if they’ve been sharing playlists?)
Later in the interview, Tesfaye also revealed that he once had cinematic aspirations and still takes cues from some of his favorite directors. “David Lynch, alongside David Cronenberg, Stanley Kubrick, and Martin Scorsese play a huge part in my brand, my looks, my sound, and my aesthetic,” he said. “At one point, my hair looked like Eraserhead.”
Read the rest of the interview here; it touches on the Black Lives Matter movement, Donald Trump, and more. Check out Tesfaye’s cover photo below.