Diversity Shown Through R&B Artist

Jordana Hamizadeh

English 1110- Slack

Research Paper

October 30, 2017

Diversity Shown Through R&B Artist

Rhythm and Blues, also known as R&B Soul. R&B is a genre of music typically composed of lyrics about love and relationships- usually funky, passionate, or depressed sounding. You probably know R&B artist Aretha Franklin, active from 1956-Present, Stevie Wonder, active from 1961-Present, Whitney Houston, active from 1977-2012, and the amazing Michael Jackson, active from 1964-2009. If you could pick someone out of those top four R&B artists I previously named that didn’t necessarily sound like the others, who would it be? I’m guessing you would have picked Michael Jackson. This is because Michael had a very particular sound to his voice that almost anyone that has ever listened to a single one of his songs could pick out of a crowd. Along with his voice, his lyrics are very peculiar compared to other R&B artists along with the general “feelings” or vibes of his songs. He typically didn’t sound like most R&B artists do which made him stand out. Since Michael died, a new face has been introduced to the industry of R&B Soul music. Abel Tesfaye otherwise known as The Weeknd otherwise known as “The New Michael Jackson”. According to The Rolling Stone Magazine, “Abel Tesfaye used to be a drugged-out R&B mystery man. Now he wants to be your Michael Jackson,” (Eells 1). The Weeknd shows diversity in relation to other R&B artists through his personal music, style, and lyrics.

The Weeknd was first discovered on YouTube when he had been uploading videos of him singing his original songs, then, by Rap Artist, Drake, Abel was featured in his “Take Care” album in late 2010. According to Drake, what caught his attention was, “The vibes of his voice were just, indescribable. It’s like he had been in the music industry all his life and the kid new what he was doing. I knew he had raw talent from the start, he just needed someone to get him started.” By Drake taking a leap of faith, The Weeknd was now in business, producing his first three mixtapes, “House of Balloons”, “Thursday” and “Echoes of Silence”, later producing his first album, “Trilogy” composed of all three mixtapes by the new aspiring artist. Drake also says, “We’re definitely a family.” and “Today [Abel] says he has nothing but gratitude for Drake, whom he calls “my closest friend in the industry.”” (Wagstaff 1).

When The Weeknd first started out he became an immediate internet sensation. When he started to become extremely popular he only granted a handful of interviews to avoid attention. Then 3 years later, “After scoring three Top Five singles this year alone, Tesfaye is poised to prove that “alternative” has become anything but when his second studio album, Beauty Behind the Madness, arrived Aug. 28. “I want to make pop cool again,” he says. “The only way I can do that is by being ambitious and grand.” (Feeney 1)

What I find to be special, along with a good percentage of his listeners and fans is that The Weeknd isn’t just R&B, and that’s why he’s considered to be “The New Michael Jackson”, just like Michael, he is so much more. Abel composes songs from slow depressing songs like “Tears in the Rain” to upbeat catchy songs like “The Hills” to rap songs like “King of the Fall” and everything in between. This is how he became so big so fast, attracting every type of fan there is.

The Weeknd has skyrocketed as an artist, starting from a ‘nobody’ to becoming a music sensation in five short years. In these past five years, Abel has been nominated for 237 big time awards, winning 112 of them. Awards Abel has won include Awards from these labels: American Music Awards, Grammy Awards, BET Awards, the People’s Choice Awards and many more. Among his most memorable awards to date include Artist of the Year, Album of the Year, Best R&B Song and Best R&B Performance, Record of the Year, Male Artist of the Year, Best Song from a Movie, Single of the Year, Video of the Year, Grammy award for Best Urban Contemporary Album, Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance, MTV Europe Music Award for Best Video, Juno Award for Album of the Year, Juno Award for Artist of the Year, Billboard Music Award for R&B/Hip-Hop Album of the Year, BET Centric Award, Billboard Music Award for Top Hot 100 Artist, Juno Award for Single of the Year, Juno Award for Breakthrough Artist of the Year, Billboard Music Award for Top Radio Songs Artist, Billboard Music Award for R&B/Hip-Hop Single of the Year, Billboard Music Award for Top Song Sales Artist, Juno Award for R&B/Soul Recording of the Year, Juno Award for Songwriter of the Year, iHeartRadio Music Award for R&B Artist of the Year, iHeartRadio Music Award for R&B Song of the Year, Billboard Music Award for Top Streaming Song (Audio), People’s Choice Award for favorite R&B Artist, American Music Award for Favorite Soul/R&B Album, MuchMusic Video Award for Best Video, MuchMusic Video Award for Best International Video by a Canadian, Billboard Music Award for Top Streaming Artist, MuchMusic Video Award for Best Pop Video, MuchMusic Video Award for Best Director, Soul Train Music Award for Album of the Year, NRJ Music Award of Honor, YouTube Music Award and most proudly- International Artist and Album of the Year.

The Weeknd is a very special artist because he writes about the hardships he faced while growing up and trying to prove himself in the music industry. When The Weeknd was only seventeen, he dropped out of high school because he couldn’t tolerate the bullying he had received on a daily basis anymore. The bullying he faced ranged from his looks, to his race, to the sound of his voice, and all the way around to the poverty of his family. This is what first inspired him to start producing music, it gave him an out when there wasn’t one, it gave him someone to talk to when no one would listen, it gave him a platform to talk about what others didn’t want to hear about.

Although I don’t have the same experiences as The Weeknd does, his music makes me feel as if I’m not alone, as if I’m understood, and as if I’m relatable. I can say that I absolutely have an emotional connection to this artist because of his experiences and even though mine differ, they’re the same.

The Weeknd proves to be different from any other R&B artist out there mainly by his lyrics and the style of his music. Generally, yes, he is an R&B artist but this author guarantees any reader will not find another R&B artist like him. He has mastered the ability to make your mind switch from thinking about love to sex to friends to drugs to death to partying to feeling alone to family and back around again. Any reader won’t find an artist that sounds like this that also has songs in the soundtrack of the famous, multi-million dollar movie, The Hunger Games, any reader won’t find a R&B artist that promotes the awareness of rape through one of their songs, in this case, The Weeknd’s hit is called “In The Night”, Number One Billboard Hit and by far this writer’s favorite song.

This writer has talked about The Weeknd on several occasions to many different people. Some of their responses include “Who is The Weekend?” or “Is that a band?”. All she has to do is show them a picture and almost all of the time the people she talks to immediately recognizes Abel from one peculiar feature, his hair. “Among the things that it’s been compared to: a tsunami, a rooster’s comb, a double mullet, (party in the front, party in the back), a cresting wave, the Elephant man… It gives him neck pains when he sleeps… [but] it makes for a great conversation piece.” (Wagstaff 1). As shown in figure 1, his -do shows diversity.

In the article, “A New Star Is Bending the Rules of R&B” by Feeney, Nolan, this writer thinks the title says it all. Above, this writer previously mentions that Abel Tesfaye, The Weeknd, isn’t your typical R&B artist and this article supports that statement. “In the music video for “Can’t Feel My Face,” the No. 1 single by the Weeknd, the artist flames out during a nightclub performance—literally. While he busts out dance moves for an increasingly hostile audience, one concertgoer hurls a lighter onstage and sets him ablaze. It’s only as he’s incinerated mindset that the crowd starts to enjoy itself.” (Feeney 1). Yes, lots of other artist have fire on the stage when they perform, however, this author has yet to find an R&B artist that does so like he does.

“From broke and homeless in Toronto to the top of the charts: Meet 2015’s most unlikely pop superstar” Says writer Simon Vozick-Levinson. Research suggests that that most R&B artists grew up surrounded by music they love and a supportive family, often wealthy. Another diverse aspect from The Weeknd’s aspect of life is that he grew up in the ‘ghetto’ outskirts of Toronto. He didn’t have a supportive family, he barely had one at all. He dropped out of high school when he was 17 years old, and he doesn’t talk to his family much.

Lots of parents today don’t like what kinds of music their teenagers listen to. After interviewing two parents, a mom and a dad, very close to this writer, she began to understand some parents’ logic behind their theory. Summed up- the parents don’t like derogatory language used, references to drugs, alcohol, and violence, the degrading of people, women particularly, along with many other concerns. To be completely honest, it is hard to find an artist that any reader liked that doesn’t make some references to these topics, The Weeknd on the other hand, any reader will find that he does make these references but never in a negative way. Furthermore, this writer finds herself catching certain lyrics that are extremely positive and uplifting, some of these special lyrics include “At least we’ll both be beautiful and stay forever young” and “Everything I said I’d do I did, I’m good”, for example.

Now onto The Weeknd’s actual, literal, and physical diversity. With the racism in today’s world, one can say that just by looking at Abel he has an immediate disadvantage in the world then again, the music industry, he is mainly Ethiopian. The Weeknd doesn’t and will not let this and what others have to say about him set him back, he knows what he’s capable of and more!

This writer strongly believes that there is something different about The Weeknd. Something that has yet to be discovered through music or something that already has been just no one sees it yet. “… There’s the Weeknd, whose brooding style of R&B became the genre’s most popular sound. On Beauty Behind the Madness, he worked with pop’s top producers, molding their sound into his own complex image” (Macleans 1). That is exactly what this writer is trying to portray. The Weeknd has broken world records with his songs on the charts, there is something about this artist. All Abel did was post three of his songs online and ended up catching the attention of one of the best well-known artists in America today. Coming up out of nowhere just from posting something as simple as singing videos deserves some major acknowledgement. This writer thinks that his image and his lifestyle is a major factor in what created The Weeknd’s image and what made it so popular in such a small period of time. He is the definition is a unique artist in this writers opinion. But let’s bring back his videos for a second. Abel’s fans were never attracted to his looks or his style or anything physical, Abel posted these videos more as podcasts. His face was never shown, nothing was ever shown. This proves that his voice and his voice only was so unique and amazing that it attracted big time artists all over America including their record labels. In this author’s opinion, The Weeknd is as diverse as it gets, well in the music industry.

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Works Cited

Eells, Josh. “Sex, Drugs and R&B: Inside the Weeknd’s Dark Twisted

Fantasy.” Rolling Stone. 2015. Web. 28 Oct. 2017.

Feeney, Nolan. “A New Star Is Bending The Rules Of R&B.” Time 186.9/10

(2015): 112. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 29 Oct. 2017.

“The Weeknd in Washington – Macleans.ca.” Macleansca. 2016. Web. 30 Oct. 2017

Vozick-Levinson, Simon. “Ready For The Weeknd.” Rolling Stone 1243

(2015): 15. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 30 Oct. 2017.

Wagstaff. Keith. “10 Things You Should Know About the Weeknd.” GQ. 2015. Web. 30

Oct. 2017.

Omi, Michael. “Racial Formations .” Racial Formations , 3 Sept. 2016, pp. 1–9.