Photo: Jeffrey R. Staab/CBSIf The Weeknd wasn’t on your radar in 2014, he proved to be hard to miss in 2015. The singer, born Abel Tesfaye and known for his lustful songs, kicked off the year by contributing two new songs to the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack: “Where You Belong” and “Earned It.” The latter, of course, would end up propelling his stardom to unexpected heights.
It all started in January, when The Weeknd released the steamy visual for “Earned It,” where he seemingly matched some of the scenes from the film adaptation of E.L. James‘ erotic novel. To date, the clip has racked up a whopping 175 million views. He would go on to perform the inescapable tune at various awards shows, including the 2015 Juno Awards, where the Toronto singer won Artist of the Year. He also performed the sexy track later in the year during the BET Awards, alongside Alicia Keys.
In March, “Earned It” achieved platinum status for selling more than one million copies, marking The Weeknd’s third platinum plaque. “The smiling is making my face numb,” the Toronto singer tweeted to his fans.
But it wasn’t until June that The Weeknd started making waves on Billboard‘s Hot R&B Songs and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts, with “The Hills.” The publication notes the singer’s lead single opened at numbers three and seven on the lists, respectively, thanks to sales and streams, marking his highest debut yet on both tallies. He seemed to duplicate his chart success with “Can’t Feel My Face,” a Max Martin-produced tune that seemingly channels the late Michael Jackson.
In July, The Weeknd became the first artist to claim the top three slots on Billboard’s Hot R&B Songs chart as “Can’t Feel My Face” took number one, followed by “The Hills” at number two and “Earned It” at number three. In doing so, The Weeknd surpassed Robin Thicke, who was the only other act to have simultaneously held two out of the top three spots on the chart. In August, The Weeknd scored his first chart-topper with “Can’t Feel My Face” on the Billboard Hot 100 and he also become the first solo male with two concurrent top-five Hot 100 entries in more than five years.
On August 28, The Weeknd released Beauty Behind the Madness through a partnership between XO and Republic Records. The set became his first album to land atop the Billboard 200 chart, where it led for three consecutive weeks. The project opened with 412,000 equivalent album units sold, a significant jump from his last album, 2013’s Kissland, which debuted at number two by selling 95,000 copies. The 14-track Beauty Behind the Madness project included guest features like pop singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran on “Dark Times,” and a song called “Tell Your Friends,” which was produced by Kanye West. At one point, The Weekend achieved the distinction of having 10 songs from his album on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs tally.
A week after Beauty Behind the Madness’ release, The Weeknd joined Beyonce as one of the headliners of Jay-Z’s Made in America festival in Philadelphia over Labor Day weekend. He celebrated his success with the Madness Fall Tour, a 22-city trek that made stops in his hometown of Toronto, Ontario, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Montreal, Atlanta and Houston, before wrapping December 19 in Miami.
After headlining various music festivals, The Weeknd achieved another feat many artists dreams of: a Las Vegas residency. In April, the singer signed a deal with Drai’s Beachclub, billed as Sin City’s only indoor/outdoor rooftop club. It’s the same venue where The Weeknd, who’s sometimes referred to as Michael Jackson reincarnated, got the chance perform in front of MJ’s legendary producer, Quincy Jones. “I’m still trying to process it,” the singer tweeted at the time.
Among The Weeknd’s other notable accomplishments for 2015: being tapped as a musical guest on Saturday Night Live for the first time, landing the cover of Vogue, and modeling Kanye’s Yeezy collection for Adidas in GQ. He even landed a marijuana-related endorsement deal.
The Weeknd will look to continue his domination into 2016 — he’s received seven Grammy nominations, including Album of the Year for Beauty Behind the Madness.
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