Covering Billboard’s “Year in Music” issue in all black, Abel Tesfaye explains how Kanye West is influencing his tour plans.
“Look at Kanye’s [‘Saint Pablo Tour’] shows,” says The Weeknd. “He changed the game. We’re looking at floor seats differently now in arena shows. I want to animate the space like that on this tour.”
He’ll have plenty of time to do the same. His “Legend of the Fall Tour” doesn’t kick off until Feb. 17 in Stockholm and he’s already linked up with Es Devlin for his set design following Devlin’s work with Beyoncé, Adele, and, of course, Yeezus.
Elsewhere in the Billboard interview, Tesfaye speaks about Starboy’s many influences, ranging from Toni Braxton to Wu-Tang Clan. Those inspirations wound up being fruitful as all of Starboy’s cuts charted on the Billboard Hot 100 after the album debuted at No. 1.
See more highlights from the interview below.
On Starboy’s distinction: “I tried to find different registers that I hadn’t sung in before. I sang a lot of low stuff on songs like “Secrets” and ‘Rockin’,’ almost like Toni Braxton. On ‘Secrets,’ I’m a different person. I’ve played it for people, and they have no idea it’s me. I even wanted to make an entire album where it was all very ‘Vogue’-inspired, music like Frankie Knuckles and Chicago house. That was the initial idea for ‘Rockin’,’ which is one of the first ones I finished for the album.”
On hip-hop’s influence: “The vibe on ‘Starboy’ comes from that hip-hop culture of braggadocio, from Wu-Tang and 50 Cent, the kind of music I listened to as a kid. Bragging just sounds good, man. I was a teenager when I saw Scarface, and even though it was unbelievable, it’s kind of cool Tony Montana could survive all those gunshots and not feel them. And there’s more than one way to do hip-hop culture. For the chorus of “Secrets,” we used The Romantics’ ‘Talking in Your Sleep’ and ‘Pale Shelter’ by Tears for Fears. It’s like hip-hop: Just grab it. We could have done the interpolation thing, but sampling the original gets the feel.”
On his musical personalities: “It’s almost schizophrenic, who I portray in my music. The vibe just represents how I feel, what relationship I’m going through, what friendships I’m going through, the success in my life, the failures in my life. It is all just documentation. I’m not going to sit here and just sing about making love, even though my favorite artists, that’s all they sing about.”
On Kanye West’s impact: “Es Devlin does my set design now. She has done Kanye, Beyoncé, Adele, U2. Her real passion is theater and opera. She looks at the job different than every other set designer. It’s art — it’s not about lighting or crazy effects. It’s about what you’re looking at, and the audience is part of that moment. It’s very three-dimensional. Look at Kanye’s [‘Saint Pablo’] shows — he changed the game. We’re looking at floor seats differently now in arena shows. I want to animate the space like that on this tour.”
On his record deal: “My deal with the label is pretty much a partnership, it’s like a distribution deal. But you know they’re my label, they’re my partners, they ride for me. They really respect me as an artist. My shit is all mine. I own all my music.”