OPINION: How The Weeknd made 2020 his year

Earlier this month, the Grammys came and went yet again with limited in-person guests and “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah hosting the show. The show came and went off without a hitch with its lowest ratings ever. Also, while I said the show went off without a hitch, there were a lot of fires that sparked online before and after the show. Figures from John Mayer to The Weeknd have had stories correlated to the awards show in bad and different ways, the latter being one of many to boycott the show entirely after getting snubbed from the awards despite tremendous numbers in his 2020 album “After Hours” and his hit songs like “Blinding Lights.”

Of course, he isn’t the only one seeing the issues with the Recording Academy due to its corrupt nature for how it chooses nominees and for placating the African American artists to the same categories under hip-hop and urban categories and nowhere else. While the Recording Academy needs to reform themselves and their overall process for choosing nominees, the show and its artists have been mired with hits from the pandemic; unlike what South Florida says, it’s still here folks. In any event, the pandemic again has mired more than a few aspects of our entertainment, travel and work alike. I think that even under the conditions residing in our pandemic, The Weeknd made it out of 2020 as one of the standout artists of this pandemic.

I’ve sought a lot of different ways to escape what was going on in the world, from YouTube channels to zoning out to music while I study and/or wait for recorded lectures to be released. Lots of artists this past year released some good material this past year from Joji, Doja Cat, Sam Smith, BTS (don’t come at me stans), Dua Lipa and Jack Harlow to name a few. That being said, I think The Weeknd had one of his standout albums and years in 2020 in his own way. I should preface this by saying that I’ve been a fan of The Weeknd since 2016 personally so I’ve come to know his music over the past five years as to what makes him stand out to me.

His latest album, “After Hours,” broke records for Billboard and had one of its tracks “Blinding Lights” being at the top of Hot 100 songs at the end of 2020 and still in the top 50 U.S. streams on Spotify as of mid-March. This success was capped off with a phenomenal Super Bowl performance that he put seven million dollars of his own money into to make the performance as great as it can be back in February, with the YouTube coverage sitting at 32 million views. He compelled himself to become not only the “King of the Fall” as his fans in his XO community call him, but also one of the most dynamic and versatile artists of our current generation in my opinion. The commercial success of The Weeknd comes in many forms through his non-lip synced performances from his sense of nuance that he puts toward his work in music videos and lyricism to his outside stints on shows and movies like “Saturday Night Live,” “Uncut Gems” andAmerican Dad.”

His songs and lyricism to me and others really tell an intense story about fame and drive for it to then feel disdain for being a part of it all. This is an artist who went from his days in Canada selling mixtapes singing about how “Cali is the mission” to having a track in “After Hours” called “Escape from LA” about how it isn’t what it seems so “take me out of LA.” It’s the amount of work and dedication that is put toward his songs that speak more than just a song that will be good for a month and then disappear from the charts and from playlists would.

What I find amusing and great about his music, like other artists I like, is that the songs tell a story within it. Similar to other acts I like such as EPs from Raleigh Ritchie and Sam Smith, it gives the listener the chance to get immersed in the songs they release rather than just treat them as “running songs.” These types of songs give new meaning to the artists that many say are good to vibe to alone, in a car or with other people. The versatility of his song catalog allows different takeaways with what he puts out, be it his own songs or features in songs with artists like NAV, Ariana Grande, Lana Del Rey, Daft Punk and Ed Sheeran to name a few. 

He’s been the first artist in a good while to make me consider going to one of their concerts. In saying that, I am someone who’s never been to a concert and is very self-conscious about showing actual passion for something amid my years in school. While his lyrics may serve as a bit of a warning for older generations and current generations to hear (especially pre-2017), I think his place in the music landscape makes him stand out as one of the acts that will be long remembered from his upbringing selling mixtapes to his authentic performances and successful albums. While the Grammys may not see his success, I do. If you wanna check out his music, he is available on streaming services like Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music and SoundCloud even has some interesting stuff by the “King of the Fall.” 

Gregory Hess is an opinion writer. Contact him at [email protected].