The Weeknd made history as the first artist to ever reach 100M monthly listeners on Spotify. The feat comes less than a week after releasing a remix of his 2016 hit “Die For You” with Ariana Grande. The Canadian star currently ranks No. 1 based on Chartmetric Artist Rank, surpassing Drake, Shakira, and Rihanna—artists who had held the top spot in the past weeks.
As the son of Ethiopian immigrants, Abel Tesfaye grew up speaking Amharic, English, and French while also listening to music in those languages, including tracks by Ethiopian singer Aster Aweke and Michael Jackson. According to Variety, the 33-year-old artist didn’t realize his music potential until he was 13 and got his big break with the release of his mixtape “House of Balloons” in 2011, a project backed up by Drake’s team. The original name for that project was "The Weekend" but after setting on another title, he decided to adopt The Weeknd as his stage name. His music drew inspiration from his troubled teenage years which included substance abuse, homelessness, and dropping out of school.
“Music was very direct therapy; it was immediate and people liked it. It definitely saved my life,” the Weeknd told Variety.
His career soon kicked off thanks to his special blend of R&B and Hip-hop and collaborations with established artists including Drake, Wiz Khalifa, and Ariana Grande. It was thanks to his 2012 track “Crew Love” with Drake that he made it to Billboard Hot 100 for the first time and has since accumulated 92 entries to that chart, including 16 Top 10 hits and six No. 1 hits. Just two years later, he was nominated for an Oscar in the category of Best Original Song thanks to his single “Earn It” for the official soundtrack of Fifty Shades of Grey. While he didn’t win the golden statue, the song did take home the Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance that same month. As one of the most listened-to artists in the world, he was chosen to perform at the 2021 Super Bowl halftime show, a performance that had many modifications to the usual format due to pandemic restrictions but still got positive reviews.
The Weeknd's most recent remix, "Die For You"with Ariana Grande, just reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, six years after the original release as part of the album Starboy. The song has garnered 65.45M Spotify streams and 22.66M YouTube views in less than two weeks. According to Billboard, the track is the second song to take the longest to reach #1 after its original release, following “All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey which took 19 years to achieve the feat.
If we look at data from the past five years, the Weeknd set his course for most listened to artist on Spotify in 2019 following the release of “Blinding Lights.” Right before the song, the artist had a little more than 24M Spotify monthly listeners, placing him below Rihanna, Bad Bunny, and Drake. However, a month after the release, the Weeknd’s listenership surpassed theirs and gave him an advantage that he hasn’t lost since.
“Blinding lights” is currently the most streamed song on Spotify with more than 3.4B streams, making it one of only two songs to ever reach 3B streams on the platform, along with Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You.” Considering that the third most streamed track, "Dance Monkey," by Tones and I has 2.77B streams, Sheeran and the Weeknd seem to be on track to stay at the top for the near future.
"['Blinding Lights' is about] how you want to see someone at night, and you’re intoxicated, and you’re driving to this person and you’re just blinded by streetlights, but nothing could stop you from trying to go see that person, because you’re so lonely. I don’t want to ever promote drunk driving, but that’s what the dark undertone is,” the Canadian artist told Esquire.
The Weeknd has also been featured on a record-number of Spotify playlists (1.6M), including some of the most followed ones: Today’s Top Hits, Viva Latino, and Songs to Sing in the Car. This makes him the second most playlisted artist on Spotify following Drake, who is featured on 1.77M playlists. Overall, the Weeknd's music is also extremely popular on YouTube where he has more than 21.6B total channel views, 22.5M daily views, and 31.4M subscribers, which places him in the Top 40 artists with the most cumulative channel views.
Like many English-speaking stars, the Weeknd has also dipped his toes into the Latin music sphere with a remix of “Hawái” by Maluma and the Bachata-infused hit “La Fama” with Rosalía, where he surprised fans singing entirely in Spanish. The first track, which peaked at No. 1 for nine weeks, was the Weeknd’s first entry to Billboard Hot Latin Songs. The latter earned him a Latin Grammy nomination in the category Record of the Year.
As he prepares to star on a film he co-wrote, The Weeknd is sure to give us more surprises and break more records in the near future.
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