The Weeknd's New Album Inspired by Prince, The Smiths and Talking Heads
The Weeknd tapped a wide-ranging group of inspirations on the follow-up to his breakthrough Beauty Behind the Madness album, some of which might surprise you. Speaking to VMAN magazine, the singer gave an intriguing snapshot of a work in progress that pulls from punk, new wave and classic R&B.
"The production feels aggressive but still sexy. The Smiths, Bad Brains, Talking Heads, Prince, and DeBarge play roles," the 26-year-old singer born Abel Tesfaye told the magazine. "We wrote it all in Los Angeles. I think it’ll be the best-sounding album I’ve ever done. It’s hard to label the sound because, when I first came out, nobody would label it R&B. I just want to keep pushing the envelope without it feeling forced."
After spinning off hits including "The Hills," "Can't Feel My Face" and "Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey)," the Weeknd is still also looking to the movies and famous directors for moods and looks. "Before I ever thought of making music, I wanted to make films. I was writing screenplays and short stories before I ever wrote a full song. David Lynch, alongside David Cronenberg, Stanley Kubrick, and Martin Scorsese play a huge part in my brand, my looks, my sound, and my aesthetic," he said. "At one point, my hair looked like Eraserhead."
And while he doesn't give many specifics about the as-yet-untitled album, the Weeknd assured fans that he will be at this for a long, long time, so there's no need to worry about Frank Ocean-like lay-offs. “My purpose is to make exciting music, and I feel like I’ll be doing that for the rest of my life, so there’s no pressure," he said. "Nothing is stopping me from doing what I love to do... I’ve been very intrigued by the film Amadeus. I’ll touch on my relationship with religion a little bit and how it ties into my crazy and materialistic life. I’ll touch base on some recent experiences and past experiences that didn’t make the last album. I wrote some of these songs while recording Beauty Behind the Madness. It’s like a fictional book inspired by true events."
In a July interview with Billboard, Republic Records executive VP/head of urban A&R Wendy Goldstein revealed that the XO leader was logging studio time with masked electronic music duo Daft Punk. "Actually, we have a session coming up in two days … with The Weeknd and Daft Punk,” she said. “I’ve always been a massive Daft Punk fan, and this is the first time that I’ve actually been involved with an artist who’s going to go and work with them.”
In May, another A-lister, Justin Timberlake, teased that an XO-meets-JT track could happen. "[The Weeknd] and I have been talking about doing a collab," the Trolls soundtrack producer told BBC 1Xtra. "He’s working on an album right now. I don’t know if I was supposed to say that."