The biggest misnomer about The Weeknd has nothing to do with the spelling of his name (any millennial worth their avocado toast knows to leave out the "e") or one of his most mainstream hits (nope, "Can't Feel My Face" isn't about a toxic romance).
Rather, it's about the Canadian singer-songwriter behind the commanding stage presence, genre-blending sound and drug-laced lyrics.
"People always say when they meet me that I'm not what they expect," he admitted to Vanity Fair back in 2015, when people still saw the edgy part-R&B, part-pop artist as a somewhat mysterious recluse, a holdover from his days of deliberately obscuring his identity. "I assume they think I'm this super dark and depressing guy, but I like to channel all of those emotions into my work. I'm pretty laid-back in real life. I just love hanging with my friends and making jokes. The jokes don't stop—literally, all day."
It was his public persona, however, that inspired last March's After Hours, which earned him two MTV Video Music Awards (from six nominations), an American Music Award and a spot on virtually every Best of 2020 list in existence. And yet he came up empty when Grammy nominations were announced—a snub that did not go unnoticed by his contemporaries. Thankfully the 2021 Super Bowl halftime show (and a Pepsi ad featuring his impossibly catch "Blinding Lights") was quite the consolation prize.
His critically acclaimed disc (followed up by 2022's Dawn FM) is "about the darkest time of my entire life, around 2013, 2014," as he put it to Variety. "I was getting really, really tossed up and going through a lot of personal stuff. I got arrested in Vegas."
Revisiting his "real rock-star era" wasn't the easiest, he continued, "I didn't want to...but sometimes you try to run away from who you are, and you always get back to that place. By the end of this album, you realize, 'I'm not that person.' I was, but I'm growing and wiser, and I'm gonna have children someday, and I'm going to tell them they don't have to be that person."
How's that for private? While The Weeknd's interviews are rare, his candor is plentiful as he speaks on the loneliness of his Toronto childhood, the drug-induced haze of his teens and his recipe for success. And in honor of his 32nd birthday Feb. 16, we've dug up 30 tidbits about the motherf--kin' starboy himself. You know you love it. You love it.
(Originally published Feb. 16, 2020 3:00 a.m. PT)