The Weeknd intentionally created an air of mystery when choosing his stage name. The chart-topping singer, known for massive hits like “Blinding Lights,” “Starboy,” “I Feel it Coming,” “Die For You” and more, was born as Abel Makkonen Tesfaye in Toronto, Canada, to parents Makkonen Tesfaye and Samrawit Hailu who emigrated from Ethiopia.
Videos by American Songwriter
Videos by American Songwriter
Before he became a megastar, Tesfaye operated anonymously and uploaded songs “What You Need,” “Loft Music” and “The Morning” to YouTube under the name xoxxxoooxo in 2010. The tracks were featured on his 2011 debut EP, House of Balloons, which was distributed through his own record label XO. The project was regarded as highly influential to the R&B music of the 2010s. Below, we look at the meaning of the name The Weeknd.
Meaning Behind the Band Name
In a 2013 Ask Me Anything Q&A with fans on Reddit, Tesfaye revealed that he came up with the name in honor of the rebellious days of his youth. Specifically, when he and his friend–fellow Toronto-bred artist Lamar who goes by the stage name La Mar C Taylor whom he co-founded XO Records–ran away from home in pursuit of their dreams.
“I left home when I was about 17 dropped out of high school and convinced Lamar to do the same lol,” he explained of the origins of the name. “We grabbed our mattresses from our parents threw it in our friends shitty van and left one weekend and never came back home.
“It was gonna be the title of [House of Balloons]. I hated my name at the time though so I tried it as a stage name. It sounded cool. I took out the ‘e’ because there was already a Canadian band named the weekend (copyright issues),” he adds in reference to another Ontario-based band called The Weekend.
There is a bit of controversy though around who actually came up with the name. Jeremy Rose, a producer The Weeknd worked with early on in his career who was instrumental in creating the sound for House of Balloons, claims that he and Tesfaye were originally a duo and that he was the one responsible for the now-famous moniker.
“We started as a group; it was he and I, and we called ourselves ‘The Weekend.’ I came up with that name, by the way,” Rose told Vice, adding that the “e” was removed from the word after they parted ways.
In a 2021 interview with GQ, The Weeknd reveals that his stage name was originally used as the title for House of Balloons and that he was also using his birth name, Abel, at the time.
“That’s what the album House of Balloons used to be called: The Weekend,” he explains. “I was still Abel. I didn’t love my name. So I called myself The Weeknd.”
The singer goes on to say that he doesn’t have as much an affinity for the name The Weeknd now as he did when he created it. He says he views it more as an alter ego that still has a lot of life to live.
“I still like it, but I think now it’s easy to take off that coat. I like that I have that as an option to escape Abel a little bit. I definitely loved it more back then than I do now. I love my name now, though: Abel,” he continues, adding that he feels like the music he’s making now is more connected to his first name.
“My fans don’t call me The Weeknd. They just call me Abel. It’s a tricky thing, but I think the name The Weeknd holds such a legacy right now. The story of that name isn’t done yet.”
The Weeknd is continuing his legacy with a recently released remix of his smash hit “Die For You” with Ariana Grande, who he previously collaborated with on “Save Your Tears.”
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