The Weeknd is riding high on the release of his new album.
The Canadian singer is on the cover of Variety, and in the issue, opens up about the darkness of After Hours, how Ariana Grande helped shape the new album, and the birthday surprise he got from Jim Carrey.
“So, [the song “Faith”] is about the darkest time of my entire life, around 2013, 2014,” the Weeknd says. “I was getting really, really tossed up and going through a lot of personal stuff. I got arrested in Vegas [for punching a police officer; he later pleaded no contest].”
“It was a real rock-star era, which I’m not really proud of. You hear sirens at the end of the song — that’s me in the back of the cop car, that moment,” he continues. “I always wanted to make that song but I never did, and this album felt like the perfect time, because [the character] is looking for an escape after a heartbreak or whatever. I wanted to be that guy again — the ‘Heartless’ guy who hates God and is losing his f**king religion and hating what he looks like in the mirror so he keeps getting high. That’s who this song is.”
Asked about revisiting his old demons on After Hours, the 30-year-old admits, “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.”
In the interview, The Weeknd also talks about the impact of his 2011 mixtape House of Balloons, believing that Usher actually copied his musical style for his own 2012 song.
“House of Balloons literally changed the sound of pop music before my eyes,” the singer says. “I heard ‘Climax’, that Usher song, and was like, ‘Holy f**k, that’s a Weeknd song.’”
He adds, “It was very flattering. I knew I was doing something right, but I also got angry. But the older I got, I realized it’s a good thing.”
Thanks to The Weeknd’s shout out to Usher, “Climax” re-entered the U.S. iTunes chart. The song hasn’t registered since July 2012.
The Weeknd also recently celebrated his 30th birthday in surprising style, thanks to his childhood inspiration, Jim Carrey.
“‘The Mask’ was the first film I ever went to see in a theatre — my mom took me when I was 4, and it blew me away. I texted [Jim Carrey] the address of my condo in L.A., and he said, ‘I can literally see your place from my balcony,’ and we got out telescopes and were waving to each other. And when I told him about my mom taking me to see ‘The Mask’, he knew the theatre!” the singer says.
“Anyway, on my [30th] birthday, he called and told me to look out my window, and on his balcony he had these giant red balloons, and he picked me up and we went to breakfast,’ he continues. “It was surreal. Jim Carrey was my first inspiration to be any kind of performer, and I went to breakfast with him on my first day of being 30.”
Back to his music, the Weeknd recalls how Ariana Grande hooked him up with one of the music industry’s biggest songwriters, Max Martin.
“Ariana was kinda my foot in the door with Max, my chance to show him, ‘I can play this game,’ y’know? But when we got in the room together, we didn’t really connect as much,” he says. “Then someone invited him to a show I did at the Hollywood Bowl, and he saw 15,000 people singing along, and I think he was like, ‘OK, there’s something I’m not getting.’ So we sat down again, and the first song we created was ‘In the Night’.”
As for how the current coronavirus pandemic is affecting him, the Weeknd says, “I’m always sitting inside working, so it’s not that different from any other day. Although I am a contrarian, and I don’t like being told what to do, so not being able to go out is tough.”