Throughout time, Toronto has gifted the world a large variety of talented musicians, and has a thriving music scene. From classic to pop, anyone can follow their dreams in Canada’s most populous city. In recent years, however, one artist who hails from Toronto has risen about the rest - quite literally - to become the number 1 most streamed artist on Spotify. The Weeknd, also known as Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, grew up just outside of Toronto, and now his top-streamed song Blinding Lights has over 3 billion plays. If you want to follow in his footsteps, or simply want to be able to play and/or sing your favourite Weeknd yourself, check out our Toronto music lessons!
In the meantime, from one Torontonian to another, here are 5 facts you might not know about Spotify’s biggest artist.
1. Toronto Artists Support Each Other: Drake Put The Weeknd On The Map
Over a decade ago, back in 2010, The Weeknd wasn’t yet the biggest known artist from Toronto, let alone known at all- but Drake was, and he was big on supporting his fellow Canadians. Drake posted The Weeknd on his October’s Very Own blog, and later worked with The Weeknd in 2011 for Drake’s album, Take Care, which further boosted The Weeknd’s publicity. Drake publicly said to MTV in 2012 that the artists’ shared heritage influenced his decision to support The Weeknd, stating that "If you want to talk about evolution — a quick evolution — that's definitely somebody who, everywhere I go, they love him," and "We're definitely a family. It's definitely a Toronto thing.”
The artists have remained in touch to this day, it seems, as when The Weeknd failed to receive any Grammy nominations in 2020 for his album After Hours, Drake went to Instagram to defend his fellow musician and show support for his work. The Toronto love runs deep with these two!
2. Canada’s Multicultural Influence: The Weeknd Is Trilingual
Canada is well-known for its multicultural identity, and is a true melting pot different cultures. The Weeknd in particular is the son of Ethiopian immigrants, and grew up in a neighbourhood with many other East African families, as well as families from India, the Middle East, and the Caribbean. Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia, was actually The Weeknd’s first language growing up, taught and spoken to him by his grandmother who helped raise The Weeknd, and was very close to him growing up.
Like many Canadians, The Weeknd then went to French-immersion school, where English is forbidden to ensure the preservation and understanding of the French language. As a result, English was actually The Weeknd’s third language as a child! However, growing up in the largely English-speaking province of Ontario, Canada, and now working almost exclusively in English as an adult, it has become his first language.
3. You Might Have Bought A T-Shirt From Him: The Weeknd Worked At American Apparel
If you went shopping in downtown Toronto around 2010, you may have met and/or heard The Weeknd before anyone knew who he was- frankly, before he even had any idea just who he would become. Back in 2010, right around when Drake first gave him a shoutout, The Weeknd worked at an American Apparel store in downtown Toronto.
However, he always knew that working in retail wasn’t his end game- he had already begun making music and selling it to other artists. He had found steady success in this side-hustle, and as a result, the music he sold to others would often be played at the American Apparel he worked at! So, his coworkers, and potentially you, were listening to The Weeknd without even realizing it.
4. He Dared To Be Different: Behind His Iconic Hairstyle
When he first started making waves in the mainstream music scene, The Weeknd’s classic tall, palm-tree-shaped dreadlocks were the immediately recognizable, signature style of the budding artist. The telltale hairstyle was partially inspired by Jean-Michel Basquiat, an American artist. However, beyond Basquiat, The Weeknd selected a hairstyle he specifically knew would catch peoples’ eyes and make him stand out- he wanted to be just as unique and edgy as the music he created. He didn’t want to look just like everyone else.
However, eventually the artistic vision he initially had for his hair faded, possibly due to his maturing as a musician and solidifying himself as a household name. Therefore, in 2016, with the release of his Starboy album, he finally cut his signature hairstyle off, and instead began to sport a much shorter look. However, even with the haircut now gone, the memory of it remains closely intertwined with The Weeknd’s public image.
5. Canadian Copyright Issues: The Reason For His Misspelled Stage Name
The Weeknd first selected the stage name “The Weekend,” for himself due to the fact that he dropped out of highschool at just 17 years old, citing that he simply left one weekend and never returned- thus his life essentially became one long, never-ending weekend. He and his friends rented the cheapest apartments they could find in Toronto, and lived a lifestyle filled with all of the R-Rated activities that influenced much of the source material for his early music (and continue to influence his music to this day).
However, he couldn’t fully keep “The Weekend” as his official stage name because there was already a Canadian band titled The Weekend, which would have caused numerous copyright issues. Therefore, he dropped a letter and thus became The Weeknd- which likely worked to his benefit, as similarly to his hairstyle, the misspelling just makes him even more recognizable and iconic.
Overall, the Weeknd’s life growing up in Toronto greatly influenced his career today, and he is now an influence to others. If you are interested in taking music lessons in Toronto to follow in his footsteps and/or to practice all your favourite songs (such as Blinding Lights, Save Your Tears, or Starboy), check out our Toronto music teachers today!