VMAN/Inez & Vinoodh

The Weeknd Says New Album Is His ‘Best-Sounding’

The Weeknd graces the cover of VMAN’s Fall/Winter 2016 issue.

Highlighted by red and purple hues on one cover and blurred by smoke in another, Abel opens up about his Beauty Behind the Madness follow-up in the mag.

“I’ve been very intrigued by the film Amadeus,” he says. “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.

The Weeknd

“I wrote some of these songs while recording Beauty Behind the Madness,” he added. “It’s like a fictional book inspired by true events.”

The photographs in VMAN were shot by Inez & Vinoodh. Meanwhile, Mel Ottenberg styled the shoot, which features smoke, motion, and a contemplative Weeknd.

See more highlights from the interview below.

The Weeknd

On his next album: “There are new inspirations on this album. The production feels aggressive but still sexy. The Smiths, Bad Brains, Talking Heads, Prince, and DeBarge play roles. 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.”

On Ethiopia’s influence: “You hear it mostly in my voice. I’ve been told my singing isn’t conventional. Ethiopian music was the music I grew up on, artists like Tilahun Gessesse, Aster Aweke, and Mahmoud Ahmed. These are my subconscious inspirations. ‘The Hills’ was the first time you actually heard the Ethiopian language in my music. It will definitely be key on this next record.”

On fame: “Being anonymous had its perks, but it feels great to be recognized for all of the work we’ve put out.”

On Beyoncé’s “6 Inch”: “It feels great seeing the character of a powerful woman be sexy, yet take matters into her own hands and not feel so helpless.”

The Weeknd

On Beauty Behind the Madness: “Even though I’ve been putting out bodies of work for years, Beauty Behind the Madness felt like the beginning. 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. Nothing is stopping me from doing what I love to do.”

On Black Lives Matter: “I promised myself that I would never tweet or talk about politics and focus on the music, but I was just so bewildered that we lost more of our people to these senseless police shootings. It’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that there are people who can’t or won’t see what Black Lives Matter is trying to accomplish. I wish I could make music about politics. I feel like it’s such an art and a talent that I admire tremendously, but when I step into the studio I step out of the real world, and it’s therapeutic. It’s an escape, but recently it’s been very hard to ignore, and it’s also been very distracting. Maybe you’ll hear it in my voice, but it is not my forté.”