This article originally ran in 2022 and has been updated.
As the story goes, Abel Tesfaye didn’t like his name, so he went out and changed it. After learning of a Canadian rock band of the same name, he altered the spelling, becoming The Weeknd.
Now, the artist formerly known as Abel is one of the most famous artists in the world, a mixtape dropper turned bona fide hitmaker. From the Canadian live music scene to high-profile collabs, Oscar nominations, and an eventual tussle with the Recording Academy, The Weeknd seems determined to explore R&B and pop music on his terms.
In celebration of his birthday on February 16th, we’ve rounded up ten of The Weeknd’s best songs so far. Check out the list below, and scroll to the end for a playlist of all 10 tracks.
10. “Call Out My Name”
Before it was the source of a TikTok sound, “Call Out My Name” was better known as a melancholic exploration of a broken romance. After a few high-profile relationships, the song allowed The Weeknd to explore the demise in his own words, even sampling his own Oscar-nominated track “Earned It” for the beat. Abel broke down crying while performing the song at Coachella in 2018 — it seems like the sadness woven into these lyrics isn’t just for show. — Mary Siroky
09. “Wicked Games”
The Weeknd’s debut single was a perfect introduction to the then-anonymous singer: sultry, soaring, and undeniably wicked. “Wicked Games” was not only the blueprint for the songs that catapulted his career to stardom (see: “Earned It”), but also for the hazy, provocative R&B that dominated the 2010s. The Weeknd sounds young and hungry on “Wicked Games,” exhibiting his powerful tenor while flexing his bravado in a seductive and passionate way. Even over a decade later, “Wicked Games” shows you exactly where The Weeknd had been and exactly where he was headed. — Paolo Ragusa