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5 Burning Questions: Billboard Staffers Talk about The Weeknd’s Prime 40 Debut For ‘Heartless’


“The fall begins tomorrow,” tweeted the artist born Abel Tesfaye on Nov. 25. Technically it was already two months into the season, however in fact it is by no means correct cold-weather season with out new music from The Weeknd, who dropped his new single “Heartless” the following night time at midnight. 

Although the track had only a couple days of full monitoring to work with after its midweek launch, “Heartless” nonetheless made its bow within the prime half on this week’s Sizzling 100, debuting at No. 32. And that is not the final we heard from Abel final week, both, as he adopted the booming “Heartless” with the nervy “Blinding Lights” only a day later. 

How resounding a comeback is that this for The Weeknd? And the way a lot potential does it must get even higher from right here? Billboard staffers debate these questions and extra beneath. 

1. “Heartless” managed a No. 32 debut with lower than two days of full streams and downloads — fairly good, although not so good as his famous ex did recently in a equally truncated first week. How blissful would you be with that end in the event you had been Mr. Tesfaye? 

Tatiana Cirisano: I’d be a teeny bit upset. To be clear, a No. 32 debut is nothing to shrug at. However The Weeknd was one of many largest names in mainstream pop on the planet only a few years in the past, and I’d have anticipated a barely greater reception — particularly for a track so epically wrapped up in public relationship drama, and particularly after a three-year drought between full tasks. (I loved final yr’s seven-track My Expensive Melancholy EP, however we haven’t had an album-album since late 2016’s Starboy.)

Eric Frankenberg: I believe it’s OK. Whereas he had fairly the maintain over the Sizzling 100 in 2015-17, The Weeknd has by no means absolutely existed as a “singles artist,” so to talk. The mixture of “Heartless” and “Blinding Lights” is an enormous re-introduction for him, and even when the lead single doesn’t yield the identical chart outcomes as “Can’t Feel My Face” or “Starboy,” it looks like place to begin with extra streaming fodder to inevitably come.

Carl Lamarre: I would not be tripping if I used to be Abel. I believe he made a splashy return with not one, however two high quality singles, with little-to-no discover. Anytime The Weeknd drops, he’ll proceed to trigger waves simply because he has the juice of a perennial hitmaker. We all know Abel can shortly soar into the top-10 with “Heartless,” particularly since he is releasing the video imminently. Plus, these songs are simply appetizers proper earlier than he carts out the true entrée — his full album. 

Jason Lipshutz: “Heartless” strikes me as extra of a gap assertion for the Weeknd’s subsequent period than a extra substantial or radio-ready return, so a prime 40 debut is completely wonderful on condition that context. It’s additionally value noting that “Heartless” launched throughout a comparatively wonky launch week because of the Thanksgiving vacation, so the variety of streams he collected whereas everybody in the US was piling on extra turkey or watching the Buffalo Payments play soccer is definitely fairly spectacular.

Andrew Unterberger: It is wonderful, however it’s probably not a bursting-with-excitement tally by late-2019 requirements — the place the No. 15 debut for Selena Gomez’s “Lose You to Love Me” actually made you are taking discover that one thing particular was taking place with the track, that is extra like “eh, fair enough.” I might have a minimum of held out hope for somewhat extra had been I Abel.  

2. What sort of potential do you suppose “Heartless” has to develop on the charts from right here? How excessive do you suppose it could go on the Sizzling 100? 

Tatiana Cirisano: “Heartless” is basic Abel: A woozy, hedonistic journey of R&B laced with lure, plus an addictive hook and a gentle provide of immediate quotables. I believe it’ll a minimum of go prime 20, however I wouldn’t be shocked to see it attain the highest 10, particularly if a truncated first week already launched it at No. 32.

Eric Frankenberg: Contemplating its No. 32 debut was primarily based on two days of exercise, and the truth that it’s nonetheless sitting fairly atop Spotify’s US chart, I’d say it has robust potential. Whereas it doesn’t essentially meet my private expectations by way of innovation or experimentation, it does really feel of-the-moment and like one thing that may play alongside lots of the largest hits of the final couple years. If I needed to guess, a prime 5 placement might be a lock. I don’t know that it has the cultural momentum to go to No. 1 however the higher area of the Sizzling 100 was been comparatively mushy these days so The Weeknd’s comeback may very well be sufficient to push this one to the highest.

Carl Lamarre: As I discussed with my first reply, I believe The Weeknd can zoom into the highest 10, and even the highest 5, with ease. We have watched the No. 1 spot change arms so many occasions these previous few months that it would not shock me if The Weeknd carved out one other chart-topping single with “Heartless.” Additionally, the highest songs of the Sizzling 100, has remained fairly regular this yr with just a bit shuffle in sure spots. I believe “Heartless” has sufficient spice to unseat any of these information as soon as radio and his video launch comes into play. 

Jason Lipshutz: I’m somewhat stumped right here, as a result of “Heartless” actually isn’t as primed for a prime 40 takeover as Weeknd singles of years previous, and even the opposite track he launched final week… however that unforgiving beat-hook mixture may very well be dominating DJ units all through the chilly winter months. “Heartless” would possibly take a short while to get occurring the charts as a result of its content material isn’t as quick as a “Can’t Feel My Face” or “Starboy,” however the track has a uncooked magnetism that might information it into the highest 10 in early 2020.

Andrew Unterberger: A heavy-hitter’s resumé plus a mushy interval on the late-decade chart schedule actually seems conducive to “Heartless” making a sizeable second-week leap, and sure ending the calendar yr — nicely, the pre-Christmas-rush portion anyway — within the prime 10. Will it observe “Face” and “Starboy” to the highest, making it three straight lead single No. 1s for The Weeknd? I am skeptical. 

3. Like Selena Gomez, The Weeknd additionally adopted his comeback launch with “Blinding Lights” the following day. Which of the 2 do you favor, and what do you consider this basic one-right-after-the-other launch technique?

Tatiana Cirisano: “Blinding Lights” is rising on me. What can I say — I’m a sucker for these vibrant, polished synths. Regardless, I believe the one-two-punch launch technique is helpful for an artist in comeback mode. Not solely does doubling down get (and preserve) followers excited, however it helps artists introduce their subsequent mission with out risking that mission turning into robotically tied to the sound of its lead single. With these releases, The Weeknd doesn’t have to decide on between catering to the mainstream pop sensibility (“Blinding Lights”) and his day-one, core fanbase (“Heartless”) — or higher but, between those that want the in-his-feelings Abel versus the cold-as-ice Abel. 

Eric Frankenberg: Neither track breaks any main floor, however I want the melody and groove of “Blinding Lights” to the been-there-done-that of “Heartless.” The one-two punch technique jogs my memory of Beyoncé’s I Am…Sasha Fierce singles, or some simultaneous releases from Rihanna throughout her radio-takeover eras. However whereas two-singles-at-once was once for the aim of dominating a number of radio codecs, it now turns out to be useful within the streaming period. It’s been tough for songs, sans-remix, to actually make a dent on the Sizzling 100 following the discharge of an album, since followers can digest the total factor without delay without cost (or what looks like free). So placing out as many songs as potential earlier than the total album permits for an even bigger total footprint on singles-based charts.

Carl Lamarre: “Heartless” is such a physique blow for relationship purists as a result of it is drenched with toxicity. It is your quintessential f–k boy anthem. In a cuffing season the place the lovebug is working rampant, The Weeknd prolonged Metropolis Boyz’s summer season reign with this scorcher. 

Jason Lipshutz: In style artists are more and more discovering inspiration from the lovely little lady within the “Why don’t we have both?” meme: in the event you’re torn between releasing an uptempo monitor or one thing extra contemplative as a lead single, launch two singles, monitor which one the world is embracing extra fervently, then double down on the chosen one. “Blinding Lights” is the extra kinetic, and finally superior, new Weeknd monitor — it seems like a funhouse-mirror model of A-Ha’s “Take On Me,” and Abel’s wounded-crooner persona will get to wrap itself round a killer refrain. I’ll take this track turning into inescapable for the following three months, please and thanks.

Andrew Unterberger: Gimme “Blinding Lights.” To be sincere, I believe “Heartless” is form of a bust — it looks like Abel going by means of the motions, significantly lyrically, and whereas the manufacturing actually pops, it does not actually have that shock of the surprising that “Face” and “Starboy” had. Undecided “Blinding Lights” is a basic but both, precisely, however I’ve had a mushy spot for post-punk/new wave The Weeknd ever since he first sampled Siouxsie and the Banshees, and that is not stopping anytime quickly. (Justice for “False Alarm”!) 

4. The Weeknd naming a track “Heartless” with out acknowledging Kanye West’s 2009 hit of the same name in any manner: Forgivable or no? 

Tatiana Cirisano: Eh, forgivable. Regardless that my thoughts instantly went to Kanye’s model, I don’t suppose the title use requires an overt acknowledgement — “Heartless” isn’t almost as particular or distinctive a title as, say, “Love Lockdown.” It’s somewhat too ubiquitous a phrase in music to personal, even in case you are Kanye West. And for somebody who has written about heartbreak as a lot, and as deftly, as Abel, “Heartless” is fairly on-brand. You would possibly say he even “Earned It” (sorry).

Eric Frankenberg: Forgivable. Kanye’s track assaults an ex, The Weeknd’s assaults himself. Kanye’s was the poppiest track on an in any other case gloomy report, whereas Abel’s is the hedonistic tails in opposition to the Prime-40 heads of “Blinding Lights.” The songs are completely different sufficient to keep away from direct comparability.

Carl Lamarre: I am positive Kanye is not fearful the slightest bit, so why ought to we be? I can perceive if Abel adopted the identical somber blueprint as Ye, however his model strikes a special chord — it is aggressive, menacing, and the man is definitely on the assault versus taking part in the sufferer on Ye’s rendition. Plus, Metro Boomin’ added some additional sauce to make Abel’s model knock more durable. 

Jason Lipshutz: Eh, it’s forgivable, particularly contemplating the truth that the Kanye West track got here out 10 years in the past and doesn’t actually maintain up as one in all his extra vital singles. If Abel’s subsequent single is named “Love Lockdown” and Yeezy will get no credit score, then we all know one thing fishy is occurring.

Andrew Unterberger: Perhaps forgivable, however inexcusably lazy. 

5. “Heartless” is one in all a staggering 20 top 40 hits The Weeknd has scored on the Sizzling 100 this decade. Which do you suppose you will keep in mind most fondly within the 2020s and past? 

Tatiana Cirisano“The Hills” will all the time be good. The mixture of its sinister, scream-like hook, Abel’s haunting vocals and metallic manufacturing make the track not possible to overlook.

Eric Frankenberg: “The Hills.” Not solely did Magnificence Behind the Insanity have its share of bangers, The Weeknd’s 2014-15 profession and inventive transformation was itself a showstopper. On the tipping level of pop assembly with the underground, he went from unknown Canadian anti-hero to king of the Sizzling 100 with out dropping any of what set him aside from the beginning. And “The Hills” summed all of that up – the medication, the intercourse, and the hooks that make it each his finest and defining single.

Carl Lamarre“I Feel It Coming” was such a banger. It is uncommon for somebody to present off true Michael Jackson vibes, however he and Daft Punk delivered a house run of a report with that one. I additionally respect how, as an artist, he got here out of the gate as this elusive, hidden determine when he debuted in 2011 with Home of Balloons — with such a robust voice and such magnetic storytelling that he was in a position to captivate listeners with out having to do a lot on the bodily entrance. Then, when he did emerge from the shadows, he embraced the thought of superstardom and have become a stone-cold killer. The mystique of Abel stays, even after his highly-publicized relationships and ever-growing star energy. That is a present we should not take as a right. 

Jason Lipshutz“Can’t Feel My Face,” solely due to the generation-spanning enchantment — it’s a track that personifies drug abuse, however rattling if I didn’t play it at my marriage ceremony reception in 2015. The Weeknd has extra placing hits, from “The Hills” to the best highs of Home of Balloons, however the (comparatively) family-friendly “Can’t Feel My Face” will endure.

Andrew Unterberger: It is “The Hills,” however one which’s actually grown on me properly is My Expensive Melancholy‘s “I Was Never There,” a brutal torch track with a ghostly vocal, and French producer Gesaffelstein’s trademark synths whining within the background like nagging doubt behind your cranium. Hope the 2 work collectively extra on Abel’s subsequent LP. 





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