The Story Behind “Die for You” by The Weeknd

The Weeknd’s hit single “Die for You” has had multiple lives since it saw the light of day in 2017. The Weeknd pulled in an expansive team of writers to help him craft “Die for You,” ranging from Canadian songwriters Doc McKinney and Cirkut to hit Norwegian producer Cashmere Cat, along with Prince 85, Dylan Wiggins, and Billy Walsh. Released as the sixth single off his groundbreaking album Starboy, “Die for You” was also featured in the 2019 short film Mania.

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Below, we look at the story behind “Die for You.”

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Meaning Behind the Song

In a 2016 interview with Zane Lowe of Beats 1 Radio, The Weeknd said that “Die for You” was “the hardest to write” and the last song to finish for the album and was completed merely a week before Starboy dropped on November 25, 2016.

“It took forever to finish that record,” he admits, saying the lyrics were the most challenging part. “Technically, it’s the last record on the album, but I wanted it to feel it coming as the last record,” he adds, comparing it to the last songs on previous albums, “The Knowing” off his 2011 effort House of Balloons and “Angel” off his 2015 breakthrough album, Beauty Behind the Madness.

In a 2017 interview with journalist Paul Tingen, McKinney says he met The Weeknd (whose birth name is Abel Makkonen Tesfaye) in 2011 during the early days of his career, co-producing mixtapes— House of Balloons and its follow-up Thursday. In addition to being a songwriter, McKinney also helped produce Starboy.

“Abel is really hands-on and super-creative, and always working, and when I came into this record, there already were quite a few song ideas,” McKinney explains. “In the beginning, it was just Abel and myself working at my studio. He’s a very strong songwriter, but he likes to collaborate with many different people…The modus operandi of how we wrote changed all the time. Some of the stuff he and I wrote from the ground up, some of it was built on ideas that he or I had previously, or we’d expand on ideas from other collaborators.” 

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Though released in 2017, the song got a new life after it went viral on Tiktok in 2021. During its original run, the song reached the top 50 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 19 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Following its resurgence on Tiktok, the song peaked at No. 6 on the Hot 100 and No. 3 on the latter chart, with Starboy also re-entering the top 40 on the Billboard 200. The song has since been certified five times platinum by the RIAA for sales north of five million.

In 2018, Starboy won the Grammy Award for Best Urban Contemporary Album.

Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images

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