The Weeknd Talks New Music, the GRAMMYs and Living 'Sober Lite' in Candid New Interview
By Zach Seemayer
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The Weeknd is moving forward into the future. The enigmatic artist launched his next musical phase with some preview clips and a candid new interview on Monday.
Speaking with GQ for a new cover story, the performer, real name Abel Tesfaye, teased his upcoming new project, saying, "It's the album I've always wanted to make. What makes any of my albums a successful album, especially this one, is me putting it out and getting excited to make the next one. So the excitement to make the next project means that this one was successful to me. I want to do this forever."
His metric for success, he admitted, has been shaped and altered by the now-legendary snub his mega-successful 2020 album, After Hours, which received zero GRAMMY nominations, despite being one of the most critically and commercially successful albums of the year.
"When it happened, I had all these ideas and thoughts. I was angry and I was confused and I was sad," The Weeknd shared. "But now, looking back at it, I never want to know what really happened."
"I just don’t care. Because that will never be the reason why I do what I do," he continued, adding that he plans to never submit any future projects for GRAMMYs consideration. "It never really was before. And I’m glad that I can make music and not have to think about that. I’ll never be in that conversation ever again."
The "Can't Feel My Face" singer also opened up about the lifestyle changes he's made as he's matured in his personal and professional lives, sharing that he's cut back on drinking and cut out drugs except for weed, embracing a "sober lite" lifestyle.
"I’m not a heavy drinker, as much as I used to be. The romance of drinking isn’t there," he shared. "Drugs were a crutch. It was me thinking that I needed it. And not doing the work to figure out how not to need it. And I’ve spent the last few years realizing that and thanking God that I don’t need it. Because for a lot of people, it’s hard to shake it. But I knew I didn’t want it."
For the singer, making music can be enough of a drug on its own, and he admitted to "putting myself in situations where it’s psychologically self-harming" in order to find deeper inspiration.
"I believe that when anybody is sad, they make better music. They make more emotional music, more honest music. Cathartic, therapeutic music," he shared. "And I’ve definitely been a victim of wanting to be sad for that, because I’m very aware... It’s an addiction and you want to always have that. Fortunately, I’ve been through that and I’ve learned how to channel it. And I’ve experienced enough darkness in my life for a lifetime. I feel lucky that I have music, and that’s probably why I haven’t dabbled into too much therapy, because I feel like music has been my therapy."
The Weeknd first dropped clues that new music was coming on Sunday evening. when he stripped his Instagram page of all photos, including his own profile pic.
He then posted to Twitter and his Instagram Story, writing, "f**k it ... IT STARTS TONIGHT." Shortly thereafter, he posted the first new post to Instagram, which features him in a black leather jacket and dark shades, in a dimly lit void.
"Just a quick reminder… you are worth more than second thoughts and maybes," he captioned the post.
The Weeknd made his first big transition out of his After Hours phase -- which was characterized by a red suit, black shirt, black tie and increasingly severe facial bandages -- when he rocked a black trench coat-style tux over a white button-down and charcoal tie to the 2021 Billboard Music Awards
The star performed in the now-iconic red suit back in February at the Super Bowl Halftime Show. Ahead of the show, he explained the cryptic concept to Variety.
"The significance of the entire head bandages is reflecting on the absurd culture of Hollywood celebrity and people manipulating themselves for superficial reasons to please and be validated," The Weeknd said. "It’s all a progression and we watch The Character’s storyline hit heightened levels of danger and absurdity as his tale goes on."
Check out the video below for more on The Weeknd's recent musical phase.