The Weeknd is one of the most prolific artists of our generation. Yes, he can make record-breaking pop records, potent and atmospheric sonic ballads, and dance-club-friendly hits that feel like they were ripped off of Michael Jackson's historic Thriller. Nonetheless, Abel Tesfaye's storytelling ability is what has helped him reach legendary status. With each album and its accompanying visuals, The Weeknd is able to pull the listener into an immersive and cinematic worlds that parallels our own.
Littered with references to film, art, and music from the past, The Weeknd tells beautifully decadent stories of love, heartbreak, sex, addiction, and fame with hints of nihilism. Sure, on the surface, it is tempting to boil down The Weeknd's music down to "fuck-boy music," but there is much more going on here. Tesfaye's music is also about adaptation, growth, falling short, life, death, and, potentially, redemption. Even more so, it can be argued that the character of The Weeknd grows with each album.
Though not always "the good guy," there is a very intentional evolution at hand that directly correlates to Tesfaye's growth as a massive pop star and creative artist. This story at play almost feels like a Lars von Trier epic, in which we watch a man thrown into various surreal worlds of alienating fame, strained relationships, and dizzying materialism and seeing if he can make it out alive and with his soul intact.
These stories are almost always paired (there have been some hiccups) with amazing music. And, as you probably guessed, we are going to look at some of The Weeknd's best music. Whether you are up at 3:00 AM thinking about the girl you fumbled or are simply looking for some city pop-inspired tracks to move your hips to, here are some of the best songs by The Weeknd.
Listen to the best The Weeknd songs below
31. Love in the Sky
"If you commit to this ride/ There’s no turning back," he sings in the opening verse of one of his most overlooked songs (#changemymind).
Latching on to a tangible state of dreaming, possibly drug-induced, the Weeknd confesses the consequences and hardships of acquiring this new, fame-enhanced lifestyle on a slow, softcore jam "As for me, I’ve been flying around the world/ I’ve been killing these shows/ But I’m always getting high/ Cause my confidence is low” he sings over a melodic thunderous rainstorm. You will love to dream after hearing this one.
30. The Knowing
What's the first Weeknd song you cried to? If you said "The Knowing", we have something in common. Serving as the conclusion of the original House of Balloons mixtape, Abel breaks our hearts with a ballet some believe to be about infidelity; a confessional about a man who cheats on the woman who cheated on him.
Whatever meaning you take from his lyrics and cryptic music video, the song still evokes similar emotions in all of us as he belts "you probably thought that you'd break my heart/You probably thought that you'd make me cry". I'm not crying, you're crying!
29. Starboy ft. Daft Punk
The Weekend's first Daft Punk collaboration was a hit. "Starboy" landed at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, and currently has over a billion views on YouTube, making its way into the top 50 most viewed YouTube videos of all time, and The Weeknd's most viewed video by far.
This single furthers Abel's adopted new dance-influenced sound with a pop hook that may make OG fans throw a side eye. However, everything that makes The Weeknd 'The Weeknd' is still present. The talk of drugs, love, and his reckless lifestyle are all still key topics of discussion but dressed in a more radio friendly bop.
28. Drunk in Love Remix
Why is this still not on Spotify?! Leave it to The Weeknd to "Dark Knight" one of the biggest hits of 2013 and bring it down to his XO level. Besides leaving Beyoncé's original hook intact, Abel presents his own risqué meaning of being drunk in love. "I woke up in the mornin', models passed out in the shower," he croons. It's so Weeknd! As soon as he spits "I've been mixin', I've been sippin" you know you're in for another wild ride through Abel's explicit party life.
27. Die For You
His "Drunk in Love" remix may make you think that Abel's meaning of love is a little skewed, but then came "Die For You" in 2016. "I'm findin' ways to articulate the feeling I'm goin' through/I just can't say I don't love you/'Cause I love you, yeah," he sings as the track opens.
Tesfaye croons about the conflicting feelings and pain that comes with letting go of someone. He lays it all out for his significant other over emotive synths as he explores the theme of Love, which is new for The Weeknd. We're here for it. He's come a long way.
26. Wasted Times
On "Wasted Times", The Weeknd proves he could do Drake better than Drake, or at least come close. The My Dear Melancholy, bop finds Abel at his most vulnerable, as the track serves as a lyrical musing about missing his ex Bella Hadid.
However, the real highlight of the song is the production. The quintessential XO has always played a major part in creating the euphoric element of The Weeknd's music, and "Wasted Times" showcases Tesfaye’s still-sharp ear for cool, contemporary sounds thanks to a helping hand from Skrillex and Frank Dukes.
This song is one of the most morbid in Abel's catalog. Contrasting dramatically in tone from Heartless and Blinding Lights on After Hours, this song feels like a comedown. The character of The Weeknd feels on the cusp of purgatory, trapped in an empty downward spiral of self-loathing and self-medicating that seems to manifest itself as hopelessness and potential death. Meanwhile, The Weeknd's signature falsetto vocals create an intense and immersive listening experience that captures the emotional depth of the lyrics. It can be argued that this inner turmoil and events here have led The Weeknd to a purgatory-like state in Dawn FM.
"Gone" feels like we’ve stepped into The Weeknd’s mind during a lit night out. Abel stumbles and slurs his words as he boasts about his successful career and lifestyle on a dark brooding beat. In an interview with Complex, The Weeknd revealed that "'Gone' was a complete freestyle” and it didn’t "even know what the fuck I said." The track has the longest runtime on Thursday and somehow Abel manages to arguably make one of his deepest and rawest performance in his catalog, and he did it all with just his subconscious.
Abel is really felling himself on "Often." The track samples vocals from 1978's “Ben Gene Sana Vurgunum” by Turkish singer Nukhet Duru, a song all about the pain of unrequited love. The Toronto native boats about his superstar lifestyle, which of course mostly entails sexual encounters with multiple women. When you at the top, they all want you. The track is a bittersweet vibe as Abel proves once again he can captivate on his signature ability to strain total debauchery through sweet melody successfully.
22. Earned It
The 50 Shades of Grey soundtrack proved Abel Tesfaye's ideal entree into the pop mainstream. The production on “Earned It” is a big change from the moody sensual tracks we're a custom to as The Weeknd commends his girl for being amazing in and out of the bedroom with a liquid falsetto. Say what you want about the film, but this single is a hit!
21. The Birds Pt. 2
She clearly didn't listen in Part 1, and foolishly enough fell in love with the bird. "The Birds Pt. 2" serves as the dramatic ending The Weeknd warned us about in the track's predecessor, pleading to a woman not to fall for him. Inevitably she does, and now "She said please, mercy me, mercy me/Let me fall outta love," as one of the darkest, most eerie songs in Abel’s discography emerges.
20. I Feel It Coming ft. Daft Punk
Ever since The Weeknd released "D.D.", a moody cover of Michael Jackson's "Dirty Diana", the comparisons to the late King of Pop started surfacing. Then came along "I Feel It Coming" and pretty much solidified that idea. The song screams MJ, from the chorus, to Abel's falsetto, to the disco groove-produced sound from Daft Punk. This might be the happiest Weeknd we've gotten so far, and it doesn't disappoint.
19. Coming Down
“Coming Down” is exactly what you think. Through the events played out in "The Party & After Party", the following track has a young Abel dealing with the consequences for his drug-fueled, party lifestyle. Over a dark, gloomy wind rolling past, blues-like strums, he wears his regret on his sleeve singing, “I’ve got something to tell you/but don’t know how I’m gon’ say it”, which clearly tells the listener that his recklessness is about to get him into some trouble.
18. Wicked Games
Usually, Abel is the heartbreaker, but in "Wicked Games" we find him desperately looking for love. What makes this song so special is The Weeknd's ability to sing about doing bad things while ultimately convincing us that he's the real victim. From the start, he reveals, "I left my girl back home/I don't love her no more/And she'll never fucking know that," but he’s singing like he just got dumped. In the company of a stripper or prostitute looking for romance knowing that it will inevitably fail, he belts out, "So tell me you love me/Even though you don't love me!" and we can't help but feel for him. You're a wizard, Abel!
17. Can’t Feel My Face
"Can't Feel My Face" is The Weeknd's biggest crossover into the realm of pop. Comparisons to Michael Jackson have never been more accurate as the Toronto singer croons over a bouncy and energetic production from Max Martin.
It spent nineteen weeks in the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, with three non-consecutive weeks at number one before being surpassed by his own single "The Hills". The Weeknd proves here that he's not just the indie crooner we loved from the glory Trilogy days, but a bona fide pop star.
16. King of the Fall
Abel ain’t scared of the fall. In fact, as we came to learn, he’s the king of the fall; he comes alive in the fall time. The track itself plays out as a lengthy, uninterrupted haunting flex as The Weeknd continuously vents about his glow up and other darker subjects.
“King of the Fall” puts Abel's swagger to the forefront, and when he belts out “all my hoes are trained, I make all of them swallow” like 15 times in a row, you can't help but nod your head back and forward.
Throughout this dark and grungy track, The Weeknd’s voice is chopped-and-screwed so as to make it sound like his voice is slowed, than sped up; a sound inspired by Vampire Weekend's "Diane Young". It's extreme. It's evil, and arguably his darkest song in his catalog, as Abel tells a girl to engage in explicit activities if she wants his love.
"Baby, you can have it all/there's just something that I need from you/is to meet my boys", he sings. “Boys” refer to either his XO crew, meaning she would have to "treat them right." The other possibility is that it refers to Abel’s drug collection; she needs to engage in his drugs before she can be accepted. Either way you interpret it, if you want Abel's heart, the sex, drugs, and homies are a package deal.
14. High For This
The very first song on House of Balloons, and subsequently the first song many of his day one fans were introduced to, is a true stunner. Like a polite host, Abel coaches us through getting high whispering, “Don’t be scared/I’m right here”, in the most gentle of tones. His unique voice paired with a euphoric booming production welcomes his guests into a world that would later shape the entire genre of dark R&B, as we know it today. "You don't know/What's in store," he sang. Yep, you were right.
The Weeknd and Metro-boomin' is a match made in heaven. The lead single off of After Hours, this bombastic track sees Abel fully embrace The Weeknd villain arc. The visuals here are some of my favorite pulling from movies like Sorcese's Casino, Terry Gilliam's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and Todd Phillips's Joker. It's the perfect intro to the After Hours Universe, the come-up before the peak.
12. The Zone ft. Drake
"The Zone" is the soundtrack to a late night "you up?" text, and the only way you'll get The Weeknd to come over is if he's on one. The track proves that the OVOXO duo is strong. "I’ll give you what you called for/Just let me get in my zone," Abel belts out over the slinky, guitar-heavy production leading up to Drake's grand closing. This is the first collaboration between The Weeknd and Drake on one of Abel’s projects, but arguably stands up against their best collaborative works. We need more from them ASAP!
These biographical tracks have become somewhat of a tradition( Reminder, Snowchild Here We Go Again), appearing on the last three albums from the Toronto artist. Often a break from The Weeknd character, they give insight into where Abel is currently, often with a bit of flexing in between. Snowchild is a rare peak into the man behind the mask. In each verse, Abel breaks down how far he has come and how he's starting to grow out of the personal goals he's set for himself. The track is nocturnal and cold — a more intentional reference to Toronto roots. I absolutely love the animated visuals that accompany this The Weeknd song.
10. The Party & the After Party
"The Party & the After Party" puts The Weeknd's storytelling front and center. As a young man with newfound fame, The Weeknd’s paranoia acts up, making him question the relationships around him. Propped up on a woozy, narcotic sample from indie pop duo Beach House, it brings a sort of ethereal sensuality to this eight minute track. It's easily one of his sexiest songs to date, and when Abel belts, "Baby, if you knewww, the feelin' I would give to youuu..." you'll yearn for more and more.
9. The Birds Pt. 1
Rule #1: Don't fall in love with The Weeknd. The singer has often been painted and largely paints himself as a heartbreaker. He makes quite sure that message gets across in "The Birds Pt. 1". As most of Thursday runs over the five minute mark, this hard-hitting anti-love track barely hits three. Abel gets right to the point, detailing a conversation between him and his girl.
Through an enticing mix of R&B cooing on the verses to the thunderous choruses "I swear/I'm just a bird/Girl, I'm just another bird," Abel pleads her not to fall in love. But after hearing the heavenly acoustic outro that's more captivating than Step Brothers "Catalina wine mixer" performance, how can you not fall in love with that voice?
8. The Hills
“The Hills” is reminiscent of Abel’s youth shenanigans from his previous work, but on a famous scale. Instead of tearing up the streets of Toronto, he's now set in the hills of LA. Over harsh, atmospheric synths, the dirty lyrics, and the blatant references to drug abuse, the XO lifestyle still persists. He hints at an affair with an equally-famous star as he reiterates throughout the chorus, “I only love it when you touch me, not feel me.” “The Hills” depicts a smug authenticity that we’ve grown to love about The Weeknd’s music, but on a grander scale. A classic for sure.
7. The Morning
A favorite of many XO fans, "The Morning" is a much warmer track from House of Balloons that has Abel singing about a stripper/prostitute from the night before. After a long night comes the morning, he reflects on his seemingly-entranced with this girl as he famously chants “All that money, the money is the motive.”
It’s some of the most vivid storytelling in his entire output, as he depicts a Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas-esque nightlife that ultimately leads to codeine cups, drinking Alizé with cereal for breakfast, and the “walls kicking like they’re six months pregnant.”
The warm hues and smooth tones of the productions sounds like a sun teetering through the clouds, giving our ears a feeling of escapism from the darker vibes of the rest of the album.
6. Tell Your Friends
"Tell Your Friends" has our Canadian crooner inviting listeners to take a real look at his past, present, and future. Abel, who's never shied away from giving fans a detailed look into wild lifestyle, proves he has nothing to hide. Over the course of nearly six minutes of blissed Kanye-produced chords, the XO star unleashes the most glorious run of shit-talking about his success, to his rough upbringing, to the issues dealing with fame at this point in his career. It's a stunning reflection of Abel’s ascension to becoming a a living legend.
5. House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls
This is the quintessential "old Weeknd" persona that we all fell in love with. This is The Weeknd before the Grammy award-winning hits or Billboard chart-topping radio bops. "Glass Table Girls" paints a dark vivid picture of Abel's youth party life featuring a flurry of women and drugs. The song evolves into a twisted reflection of the night’s preceding events, foregoing entertainment and stumbling into recklessness.
His risqué storytelling reads out like a gothic novel as his soft melodic voice narrates and entices you to adventure deeper and deeper into his twisted world. If anyone asks what song sums up The Weeknd's music, we'd play this. It's the XO anthem.
4. Out Of Time
For me, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this track. It's another glamourous call back to the Quincy Jones era of R&B music and more subtle nods to City Pop. The music video for this song gives off heavy, Lost in Translation vibes, and I mean that in the best possible. Again, The Weeknd's ability to recontextualize some of our favorite moments in pop culture is unmatched. This Dawn FM track would not feel out of place at Studio 54 in the 80s.
3. Blinding Lights
If Heartless was the come-up, Blinding Lights is the peak in the After Hours mythos. One of the most successful songs to date by the artist, Blinding Lights is a pop mega-hit thanks to its flashy production, catchy hook, and phenomenal vocal performance by Abel. Interestingly, this video is arguably one of The Weeknd's darkest. The juxtaposing elements work very well, creating one of the most compelling moments in pop culture in the past decade. Here, we see the birth of The Weeknd as a pop star and dramatic shifts in sonics that pulls heavily from MJ's catalogs and the mind of Quincy Jones — elements that would come full circle in Dawn FM.
2. Rolling Stone
"Rolling Stone" plays out like an open letter to fans as Abel accurately predicts his own future. Instead of settling on the quintessential XO sound and success he found early in his career, he confronts his fear of wanting to grow more as an artist and the impact on his music to do so. He hopes his fans will follow him through his journey, as he sings, "I'll be different, I think I'll be different, I hope I'm not different, And I hope you'll still listen." This track is a mold between what we perceive as the "old Weeknd" and the new. It's one of his most personal tracks to date, and that's what makes it so special.
1. Less Than Zero
This is one of the most cathartic songs by The Weeknd. The closing track on Dawn FM, Tesfaye blesses us with a synthpop ear-worm that could have doubled as a collaborative track with the 80s' Norwegian band A-ha. The bright and sunny production plays as the character of The Weeknd laments to a lover, or lovers, that he knows he's not the best person to be in a relationship with. Equally, it seems as if he is at peace with the type of person that he is at the moment. It's a very rare moment of hope in The Weeknd universe, alluding to an exciting new direction for our anti-hero. The is very little here, not to like here. It's another song that balances timeless pop flavors with bold modern sonic direction. It's a song I promise will still sound incredible in five years.
For more Toronto gems, check out our list of best Drake songs.