Instant Follow Friday: Delirious for The Weeknd and His ‘Beauty Behind the Madness’

If you have never felt intoxicated by Abel Tesfaye, better known as The Weeknd, you’ve got some work to do.

He’s been bestowing us with steamy, lusty hits for years, and finally his third, highly-anticipated album Beauty Behind the Madness comes out today (August 28, 2015).

Tesfaye started off as a 21-year-old unknown, underground wunderkind. He released a series of majestic (and free) mixtapes with no promotion, which gained notoriety through word of mouth (and importantly Drake, who shared his tracks on his blog and subsequently enlisted him to help work on Take Care). His mixtapes are cavalier, and exhibit his quintessentially raw, somber and haunting sound, making it the perfect music for partying early into the morning, or getting intimate with that one person after everyone else has left.

Perhaps at one time you remember wondering, “Who is The Weeknd?” Maybe it was after you first heard his cover of Michael Jackson’s “Dirty Diana” (“D.D.”), or his ever-popular “High for This.” Not only was he virtually unknown, but he’d never given any kind of formal interview. His first wasn’t until 2013, when he did a cover story with Complex around the time he was preparing to release his debut album Kiss Land. At the time, he remarked that he hadn’t done any interviews because, “I felt like I had nothing to say. I still feel I have nothing to say. I’m the most boring person to talk to.”

That is all to say that The Weeknd was catapulted into the spotlight, and though it is not unwelcome, it is still something he is getting used to. But it’s interesting to see how much has changed since the days As the artist of the moment, Tesfaye’s gone mainstream without losing his individualism. He is a romantic with a predilection for macabre, and that’s pretty unique when we look at who the other “hitmakers” of the moment are.

But his style undeniably works: his lead single off BBTM, “Can’t Feel My Face,” peaked at No. 1 and is currently at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. His other single “The Hills” is currently peaked at No. 5. Additionally, “Earned It” was the lead single off the soundtrack for this year’s most hyped- and sexed-up movie, Fifty Shades of Grey. Director Sam Taylor-Johnson directed the music video for it, which featured star Dakota Johnson all tied up in some BDSM-friendly ropes.

Now, he tells TIME in their latest issue why he’s decided to embrace the spotlight:

My cult following is so strong already. Thanks to my fans that have been with me from the beginning, I was able to sell out arenas on my own. I just felt like I was selling myself short. The last album [2013’s Kiss Land] was rushed. Even though I’m proud of it, I didn’t get to spend as much time as I wanted, but it was a great learning experience. I took my time with my new album. I learned, I studied and I delivered. I want the world to hear my music and see the movement my fans and I have created.

He likewise told Billboard (for which he’s this month’s cover star), “The pop-star life is a new challenge.”

XO

A photo posted by The Weeknd (@abelxo) on

As for labeling his music as “alternative R&B” or “pop,” as it’s become with BBTM, he explained to TIME:

Alternative R&B is in my soul. It’s not going anywhere. When I put out songs from House of Balloons in 2010 people said I made R&B cool again. I’m assuming that’s when the label was created. I feel honored that a good part of today’s music is inspired by it, consciously or subconsciously. The only way I could have done that was to be ambitious and grand. That’s what I want to do with Beauty Behind the Madness. I want to make pop cool again, and the only way I can do that is by being ambitious and grand.

Tesfaye is now connecting with his fans in a new way: Instagram. He joined only a couple months ago, and boasts a following of 2.5 million (and counting) followers. He’s also rumored to be dating Gigi Hadid’s 18-year-old model sister Bella, which of course does nothing to keep him out of the headlines.

Billboard perhaps puts it best when it comes to who The Weekend is: “his modest height and equally modest Canadian manners suggest nothing of his lyrical persona as the drugged-up, emotionally disconnected seducer — only a quiet excitement about his own potential.”

And so, by way of his own cool factor and sexed up sound that captures the hearts of both emotional cripples and emotionally liberal folk alike, The Weeknd is definitely making pop cool again with the release of Beauty Behind the Madness.

He’s also taking his sexy sounds around the country: The Weeknd’s 22-city North American arena tour starts Nov. 3.

Follow The Weeknd on Instagram @abelxo and on Twitter @theweeknd.

Check out some of Tesfaye’s best moments on Instagram in the gallery above.