Sex, Drugs and R&B: Inside the Weeknd’s Dark Twisted Fantasy

Originally From RollingStone.com

Abel Tesfaye used to be a drugged-out R&B mystery man. Now he wants to be your Michael Jackson

By Josh Eells October 21, 2015

So is this swearing or no swearing?” In a darkened soundstage on the outskirts of London, Abel Tesfaye is wondering if he can say “fuck” or not. Tesfaye, better known as breakout pop sensation the Weeknd, is at a rehearsal for Later…With Jools Holland, the BBC music show, about to soundcheck his smash hit “The Hills,” a four-minute horror-movie booty call featuring more than a dozen f-bombs. For Tesfaye, that’s relatively clean, but he knows the pensioners in Twickenham might disagree. So when the verdict comes back “no swearing,” he nods and smoothly pivots to a censored version — a small gesture that says a lot about the kind of professional he has become.

“The Hills” is currently enjoying its fourth straight week at Number One, a feat made even more impressive because it took the place of another Weeknd track, “Can’t Feel My Face” — Spotify’s official song of the summer, and the only song about cocaine ever to be lip-synced by Tom Cruise on network TV. Tesfaye is just the 12th artist in history to score back-to-back Number Ones, a group that includes Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Taylor Swift. His new album, Beauty Behind the Madness, has sold more than half a million copies in a couple of months, and he’s preparing to launch a national arena tour in November. “I’m still digesting it, to be honest with you,” Tesfaye says of his success. “But the screams keep getting louder, dude.”

Tesfaye comes over to say hi, dressed in black Levi’s and a Roots hoodie, his tsunami of hair piled high atop his head. “Sorry, I’m sick,” he says, as his handshake becomes a fist bump in midair. Since starting this promo tour a week ago, he’s been to Las Vegas, Paris, Berlin and now London. The cold caught up with him yesterday, during a signing for 500 squealing fans at the Oxford Circus HMV. (Overheard: “I wanted to hug him!” “You didn’t hug him? I kissed him!”)

This scene would not have seemed possible in 2011, when the Weeknd appeared with a trio of cult-favorite mixtapes that established both his sonic template — drug-drenched, indie-rock-sampling, sex-dungeon R&B — and his mysterious, brooding persona. A press-shy Ethiopian kid from Toronto who has given only a handful of interviews, he has cultivated a near-mythical image as a bed-hopping, pill-popping, chart-topping cipher. “We live in an era when everything is so excessive, I think it’s refreshing for everybody to be like, ‘Who the fuck is this guy?'” Tesfaye says. “I think that’s why my career is going to be so long: Because I haven’t given people everything.”

Spend just five minutes with him, though, and he reveals himself: sweet, soft-spoken, surprisingly earnest. When I tell him he’s not what I expected, he nods. “When people meet me, they say that I’m really kind — contrary to a lot of my music.”

When talking about his art and his career, Tesfaye is blessed with a towering self-confidence and has no hesitation about declaring his own greatness. “People tell me I’m changing the culture,” he says. “I already can’t turn on the radio. I think I’m gonna drop one more album, one more powerful body of work, then take a little break — go to Tokyo or Ethiopia or some shit.” Hearing him boast about talking shop with Bono, or name-dropping “Naomi Campbell, who’s a good friend of mine now,” you may be tempted to see a diva in the making; or you may see a 25-year-old guy who’s stoked and incredulous to be in the position he’s in. Continue reading

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How Hip-Hop Conquered Streaming

Though it’s second fiddle in digital and physical sales to rock and pop, hip-hop has long been the most popular genre on music streaming services. BuzzFeed News spoke to music industry experts to find out why.

Earlier this year, on Valentine’s Day, much of the internet was enamored of Drake. The Toronto rapper’s commercial mixtape, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, which had been released with little warning two nights before, was played more than 6.8 million times on Spotify, the world’s largest music streaming service, more than doubling the previous single-day streaming record. Like a capricious lover, however, that same record would soon move on to another. Almost exactly one month after Drake’s mixtape, and a week ahead of schedule, Kendrick Lamar crashed streaming servers with a surprise release of his own — his second major-label album, To Pimp a Butterfly, which demolished the record set by If You’re Reading This by racking up an unheard of 9.6 million streams on its first full day of release.

These twin high-water marks, set by two of hip-hop’s most dynamic figures (andoccasional rivals), say a lot about the state of the genre, which is flourishing after a relatively fallow 2014. But they also say a lot about the state of streaming, which is not only distinguished from other music platforms in that it’s growing rapidly, but in that the type of music that is driving its growth is rap and R&B.

According to Nielsen Music, a plurality — 29% — of all on-demand streaming in 2014 was of hip-hop and R&B. This includes activity on services like Spotify, YouTube, Rdio, and Rhapsody, but not Pandora or SoundCloud. Hip-hop and R&B’s share of streaming put the genre ahead of rock (25%), pop (21%), EDM (7%), and country (6%). And data provided by Nielsen to BuzzFeed News shows that the trend held for the first quarter of 2015, with hip-hop claiming a 25% share of streaming, compared to 23% for rock and 20% for pop.

Over the past six months, four of the top five most streamed albums on Spotify globally belonged to hip-hop (Drake, Lamar, J. Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive, and Big Sean’s Dark Sky Paradise), with only One Direction’s Fourpreventing a sweep. And last month, the Spotify record for most streamed song in a single week went to the rapper Wiz Khalifa, whose hit “See You Again” featuring Charlie Puth received 21.9 million plays from April 6–12.

Hip-hop’s lead in streaming is remarkable, considering that the genre has historically lagged behind rock and pop in other metrics used by the music industry as barometers of success. When it comes to album sales, for instance, hip-hop and R&B was still a distant second to rock in 2014, accounting for 14% of sales compared to rock’s 33%, according to Nielsen Music. In song downloads, hip-hop and R&B came in third place behind both rock and pop.

As the music industry has shifted to a more streaming-focused model, with both physical and digital music sales continuing to decline, there are signs that hip-hop artists are reaping the benefit. More than a third of the 14 albums to top the Billboard 200 this year, which last November began to include streams as a factor, came from the hip-hop category, including the aforementioned albums by Drake, Lamar, and Big Sean, plus theEmpire soundtrack and Wale’s The Album About Nothing.

“These artists are doing phenomenally well,” Dave Bakula, SVP of industry insights at Nielsen, told BuzzFeed News. “And it’s something we’ve seen for as long as we’ve been tracking [streaming] — R&B/hip-hop really sets itself apart.”

Of course, the million-dollar question is: Why? It’s not easy to say, conclusively. Unlike, say, vinyl, which is today marketed toward older consumers and leans heavily on the classics (4 out of 10 of the top-selling vinyl albums last year were released before 1985), streaming services have long been billed as genre-agnostic musical utopias: all of the music, all of the time. To explain how hip-hop and R&B came to rule such a platform, we talked to industry experts and came away with three theories.

The Youths

The first and most obvious answer has to do with age. Streaming is the youngest of the platforms and, as with most nascent technologies, its user base is similarly young. According to a study by GMI Market Research provided to BuzzFeed News, the average age of users of major music platforms is as follows: Spotify, 28; Pandora, 32; iTunes, 34; SiriusXM, 42; terrestrial radio, 43.

“If you’re 18 years old, you probably don’t have any memory of purchasing music via download or physical product,” said Ken Parks, chief content officer at Spotify. “But you probably do spend a lot of time listening to music on platforms like ours or YouTube.”

From Will Smith to Rae Sremmurd, hip-hop has always been fueled and supported by young people, so it makes sense that a platform with a young user base would see a lot of activity in that genre. “Many 18- to 24-year-olds, which is really our core audience, eat, sleep, and breathe hip-hop,” said Parks. So who’s streaming all of that Wiz Khalifa? Probably not your mom.

Mixtape Culture

Hip-hop, more than any other genre, has a strong tradition of free music. Years before the rise of ad-supported, on-demand streaming in America, rappers big and small were keeping mixtape sites like Datpiff and LiveMixtapes flush with quality content at no cost. When Spotify arrived in 2011 with the promise of making all music available for free, it’s easy to imagine hip-hop fans among its earliest and most avid supporters. “People our age come from an era where you can just go to a mixtape website and download everything for free, so that’s just what we’re used to,” said Tyler, the Creator, whose April album, Cherry Bomb, was the most streamed album on Spotify the week of its release. “Hip-hop fans want the shit right then and there or they’ll download it somewhere else for free. They’re like, ‘What the fuck do I look like buyin’ it?’”

It’s worth remembering that Drake’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late mixtape broke on-demand streaming records only after being pulled from traditional mixtape destinations like SoundCloud and LiveMixtapes.

Social Media Behavior

The portability of links to songs on YouTube or Spotify means it’s much easier to share music than ever before, and activity on streaming services often follows social media conversations. According to an unpublished “Music 360” study by Nielsen provided to BuzzFeed News, hip-hop and EDM fans are the most likely to talk about music with friends, including on social media. In a survey of over 2,500 music listeners, 27% of hip-hop fans strongly agreed with the statement “I often discuss music with my friends,” compared to 28% of EDM fans, 21% of rock fans, and 17% of pop/top 40 fans. “I think the social nature of the fan base is a factor here,” said Bakula.

Nielsen’s study of hip-hop fans jibes with earlier research about African-Americans and social media use. A 2014 study by the Pew Research Center found that fully 96% of black Americans between 18 and 29 use social networking sites, compared with 90% of white Americans in the same age group. Smartphone ownership among 18- to 29-year-olds showed a similar gap: 85% of black respondents said they owned a smartphone compared to 79% of white ones.

Among the many ways that the rise of streaming is disrupting the business and culture of music, one of the most significant may be upending paradigms of access and visibility. Originally conceived as the defiant music of outsiders, hip-hop, now more than ever, is poised to become the default. If streaming is the future, than, for now at least, the Drakes and the Kendricks, and the J. Coles of the world are its heirs.

30 Songs To Listen To Before Coachella

Originally posted on Refinery29

It’s about that time. Music lovers and connoisseurs alike, not to mention fashion gurus and good vibe appreciators, are packing and counting down the hours until the three-day annual party that’s held over two consecutive weekends in the desert and filled with dancing, drinks, and dust. Lots and lots of dust.

Coachella is heading into its 15th year at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California. After a decade and a half of bringing millions of people together through music and art, the festival gets bigger and better (depending on your musical tastes) each year. Tickets to the epic event sold out in less than 40 minutes this year, and the thrilling lineup explains why. Rockers AC/DC and Jack White, and rapper Drake, are headlining the fest. Florence + The Machine, whose new music has been long awaited — along with Interpol, Alabama Shakes, alt-J, and Ryan Adams — will also take the stage. The Weeknd will make an appearance for R&B fans, while Kaskade and David Guetta will get EDM lovers moving. Newcomer Hozier will also continue to make his mark at the festival known for exposing up-and-coming artists.

So many artists, so little time. But, don’t worry we’ve got you covered — except when it comes to figuring out how you’re going to see all your favorites each day. To help you prepare, we’ve gathered the best songs from this year’s artists. Take a listen and get ready for the big weekends. And, by get ready, we mean rest… You’ll need it.

The 10 Most-Liked Songs Of All Time On Pandora

Pandora lets you teach it what to play by giving songs either a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.” It recently announced that users have voted with their thumbs a staggering 50 billion times — the equivalent of seven thumbs for every person on Earth.

Here are the 10 most popular songs of all time on Pandora.

10. The Fray, “How to Save a Life” — 15.6 million thumbs up
9. Adele, “Someone Like You” — 15.8 million thumbs up
8. Gotye, “Somebody That I Used to Know (feat. Kimbra)” — 16.2 million thumbs up
7. One Republic, “Counting Stars” — 16.3 million thumbs up
6. Maroon 5, “She Will Be Loved” — 17.1 million thumbs up
5. Goo Goo Dolls, “Iris” — 17.3 million thumbs up
4. Mario, “Let Me Love You” — 17.4 million thumbs up
3. Imagine Dragons, “Radioactive” — 18.3 million thumbs up
2. Drake, “The Motto” — 19.0 million thumbs up
1. Journey, “Don’t Stop Believin’” — 20.2 million thumbs up

52 Reasons 2015 Will Be The Best Year For Music Since Ever

Adele! Kanye! Rihanna! Frank Ocean! Sufjan! Seriously, we’re freaking out.

originally posted on Buzzfeed

1. Adele, TBA

Adele, TBA

XL Recordings

Thanks to a single, winking tweet from Adele, many fans expected the follow-up to her world-conquering sophomore album last year. However, 2014 came and went without so much as a song title and the project remains shrouded in mystery. In a recent interview, long-time collaborator Paul Epworth refused to comment on the sound or status of the album, saying only that it “will come when it’s ready.” Will she pull a Beyoncé? Collaborate with Pharrell? Make good on her promise to go country? Only time will tell because her people aren’t talking.

2. Kanye West, TBA

Kanye West, TBA

Slaven Vlasic / Getty Images for (RED)

Appreciators of G.O.O.D. music are starved for new ‘Ye after a 2014 in which a much-anticipated follow-up to Yeezus was teased repeatedly but never produced. One track allegedly leaked, while another made a brief and tantalizing appearance in a World Cup Adidas commercial. On New Year’s Eve, Kanye threw fans for another loop by premiering the first official taste of his next project — an emotionally devastating ballad written from the perspective of his late mother and featuring Paul McCartney. Dubbed “Only One,” the piano-driven tearjerker is about as far from the queasy pyrotechnics of Yeezus as you can get. And with several more McCartney collaborations promised in a press release, the only thing we know is that everything we thought we knew about Yeezus II is wrong. New day, new ‘Ye.

3. Rihanna, TBA

Rihanna, TBA

Def Jam

It’s been two years since Rihanna’s last album and expectations are at an all-time high. Once known for releasing a new album every year, pop’s hardest working hit-maker decided to take some time off in 2013. While she continued to listen to demos and “phuck round” in the studio, it wasn’t until October 2014 that she really buckled down and got to work. According to insiders, her eighth album — dubbed #R8 by fans — will be a mix of ballads and edgier, Hudson Mohawke-esque bangers. She’s also reportedly recordeda song titled “Burritos,” so, yeah, it sounds like this album will be worth the wait.

4. Kendrick Lamar, TBA

Kendrick Lamar, TBA

Interscope

What we know: 1) “i” and the untitled track he performed as the last musical guest ever on Colbert both slay. 2) His last album Good Kid M.A.A.D City was a rare kind of insta-classic revelation that floored just about everyone exposed to it. 3) Kendrick himself is a rare music artist, unafraid to take risks, confound fans, and say what’s on his mind in this era where nearly everyone is content to play it safe. All that adds up to next-level anticipation for whatever it is King Kendrick has planned, and we’re told from a label rep who has heard the album that our expectations aren’t misplaced. “I can’t tell you anything about the album,” he told us. “Except it’s going to blow you away.” Of course, label reps are paid to make hyperbole sound natural, but we are completely inclined to agree here.

5. Troye Sivan, TBA

Troye Sivan, TBA

EMI

If you don’t know the name Troye Sivan yet, you will soon. Thanks to a startlingly self-assured EP and an enormously dedicated fanbase, the Australian YouTuber-turned-singer is poised for IRL stardom. His five-song debut, TRXYE, cracked the top five of theBillboard 200 with almost no press and just three days of sales. More than just a stylish collection of synth-pop, TRXYE established Sivan as an artist with things to say and a voice worth listening to; mixed in with the songs about love and lust are critiques of prescription pill culture and thoughts on toxic masculinity. His forthcoming debut album for Capitol is to likely solidify his standing as one of pop’s most exciting newcomers.

Continue reading

Tink Featuring Jay Z and Rick Ross — “Movin’ Bass”

Yesterday, we posted a new song of Sleigh Bells featuring Tink, and today we have a new Timbaland produced song “Movin’ Bass” with Tink featuring Jay Z and Rick Ross.

Timbaland recently said of Tink, a rising female rapper from Chicago, “She was music and she saved my life… You can’t believe somebody at 19 got it. We don’t see that no more. The last person we saw [like her] was Drake.”

Listen Below