The leaves have begun to change colors, the air is cold, and S.A.D. is ramping up. Some think of this as a time for pumpkin patches and puffy vests (I don't get the craze, I like sleeves for warmth), but nothing would be as complimentary to the changing season than a new album from Abel Tesfaye, better known as The Weeknd.
It's been almost three years since The Weeknd released the triple-platinum Starboy, his third studio album. It debuted at number-one on the US Billboard 200 and netted a Grammy for "Best Urban Contemporary Album". The album featured mega-hits "Starboy", "I Feel It Coming", "Party Monster", and "Reminder", among others.
Since Starboy's release, The Weeknd has dropped a six-track EP, My Dear Melancholy, and appeared on "Power is Power", a promotional single for "Game of Thrones" featuring Travis Scott and SZA, as well as "Lost in the Fire", a collaboration with French DJ Gesaffelstein.
Part of what makes The Weeknd so alluring is how secretive he is. When tracks from his debut mixtape House of Balloons (my favorite Weeknd project to date) began to emerge online in late 2010, only his stage name was known. It wasn't until his first-ever live performance at Mod Club, a Toronto venue, that he was revealed to the world as Abel Tesfaye. Since unveiling his true identity, The Weeknd has become one of the most recognizable figures in music as he has raked in billions of streams and grossed well over $100 million across multiple tours.
Most of what we know about The Weekend's life has been divulged through his lyrics, especially in Trilogy, the album compiled from his first three mixtapes. His personal life has been speculated about in entertainment tabloids due to a couple high-profile relationships, one of which is rumored to have inspired My Dear Melancholy. While Kiss Land and Beauty Behind the Madness, his other two studio albums, have helped give a deeper look into Tesfaye's vices, women, and now-extravagant lifestyle, Melancholy felt like a return to the darker, deeply emotional sound (on certain tracks) that skyrocketed him to fame. Aside from a Beats 1 interview in 2016 with Zane Lowe (that he said might be his only ever), The Weeknd doesn't have any recorded, long-form interviews and has only granted a few journalists sit-downs. He's highly visible through streaming and social media, but who Tesfaye is outside of music remains a bit of an enigma. The re-adjustment in Melancholy makes it feel as if The Weeknd will be returning to his "roots" and provide the perfect acquaintance for lonely, self-loathing smoke sessions while still being able to electrify a room.
That Zane Lowe interview is one of my all-time favorites. It gets taken off YouTube constantly, but I found a version separated into multiple parts. Part 1 is below:
The Weeknd's international tours share a common theme: King of the Fall Tour (2014), The Madness Fall Tour (2015, a bit of a strech, I know), and Starboy: Legend of the Fall Tour (2017). Five of his eight projects have been released during fall (September 23-December 21). Notice the recurrence? Fall is The Weeknd's season and after teasing the project for almost a year, it feels like a new album is imminent.
The album has been referred to as Chapter VI due to it's would-be release marking The Weeknd's sixth studio production. During a performance at Toronto's Hxouse, he told the crowd that "Chapter VI is coming soon", instantly sparking excitement. He doubled-down on the statement when he tweeted right after the show:
This all but confirmed that the album was not only coming, but likely in the works. The longest gap between projects is two years, between Kiss Land and BBTM, making this three-year hiatus even more grueling, especially for a new-ish fan like myself (I've always liked The Weeknd, but over the last couple of years I've evolved into a fan). The "announcement" is eleven-and-a-half months old; where's the album?
The last two months have been filled with clues that have made it seem like Chapter VI could be coming before fall hands the reigns to the bitter winter (which may not the worst if Abel is really trying to get us in our feelings). Almost three months ago, The Weeknd went viral not only for his killer outfit but also the caption of this tweet:
It's a great picture, that's why it's the cover.
A few weeks later, this image was also tweeted:
Sure seems to be in some kind of studio, probably (hopefully, please?) recording Chapter VI. Look, I'm aware about to say 'how ever much time later', again, blah, blah, blah; I have no choice. It's sequential, maaan. Last time, I promise. On October 3, we got the last remaining pieces to an almost-solved puzzle:
I'm not an English major but I'm fairly confident in my context clue abilities. " Just listening back to notes" sure sounds like, I don't know, looking at producer notes or whatever goes in the studio. And not only is that pipe one of the sickest I've ever seen, but the background looks like a space where music is recorded. Could also be a Rainforest Cafe, there's only like four square feet to work with there.
Besides these tweets from The Weeknd himself, little is known as to what the album is actually called or when it's coming out. After he finished BBTM there were so many ideas left that he cranked Starboy out within the next year. It feels like multiple projects in a short time is possible, and if that were to happen, it's safe to say millions around the world will be ecstatic.
The Weeknd is making his feature film debut in Josh and Bennie Safdie's upcoming "Uncut Gems", due out on Christmas Day. It features Adam Sandler in what some are calling an Oscar-worthy performance and with the movie set to be a hit, The Weeknd having his album boosted by buzz (or vice versa) would only benefit both parties. Who knows, maybe they'll feature some new music in the movie; they used Travis Scott's "Pray 4 Love" featuring The Weeknd for the trailer.
No one but Abel Tesfaye and others working on the album know exactly when the album is dropping, but the stars feel like they're aligning. If Abel keeps up the pace with the mysterious tweets, we'll be able to get a better idea of when we can lock ourselves away and sulk, but maybe hit a few smooth moves in the mirror. I'll go ahead and make an uneducated prediction: we'll have Chapter VI by December 15 (my birthday, Venmo me).
I don't know, man, I feel it coming.