Why The Weeknd is changing his name back to Abel Tesfaye

The record-breaking singer says he's 'going through a cathartic path' and ready to close one chapter of his life

The Weeknd has changed his name back to his birth name Abel Tesfaye. AP
Powered by automated translation

The Weeknd is over. The Canadian pop star, one of the most streamed artists in the world, now wants to be known by his birth name Abel Tesfaye.

The move comes a week after the Blinding Lights singer, who updated his social media accounts on Monday to reflect his new identity, spoke about his plan to “kill The Weeknd” to W Magazine.

“I'm going through a cathartic path right now. It's getting to a place and time where I'm getting ready to close The Weeknd chapter,” he said.

“I’ll still make music, maybe as Abel, maybe as The Weeknd. But I still want to kill The Weeknd. And I will. Eventually. I’m definitely trying to shed that skin and be reborn.”

He also suggested his upcoming album may be his last as The Weeknd.

“The album I’m working on now is probably my last hurrah as The Weeknd,” he told W Magazine. “This is something that I have to do. As The Weeknd, I’ve said everything I can say.”

Tesfaye, 33, adopted the name The Weeknd early in his career when he dropped out of school.

“I left home when I was about 17, dropped out of high school,” he told fans on Reddit in 2013. “We grabbed our mattresses from our parents, threw it in our friend's van and left one weekend and never came back home. I hated my name at the time though so I tried it as a stage name. It sounded cool. I took out the 'e' because there was already a Canadian band named The Weekend.”

But this is not the first time Tesfaye has contemplated discarding his adopted name.

“Abel formally known as The Weeknd?” he wrote last year in a tweet that received thousands of likes.

Born in Toronto to Ethiopian immigrants, Tesfaye found fame on YouTube in 2010 when he uploaded his original songs. His popularity rose after the rapper Drake shared the tracks on his blog.

Tesfaye has since released five studio albums, starting with 2013's Kiss Land. He's won multiple awards, including four Grammys, and broke many records. Blinding Lights, from the 2020 album After Hours, is still the most-streamed song on Spotify, with more than 3.5 billion streams.

The singer, who has produced and acted in the HBO series The Idol, is set to make an appearance at the Cannes Film Festival next week to introduce the show.

The Idol, which Tesfaye co-created with Euphoria creator Sam Levinson and producing partner Reza Fahim, stars Lily-Rose Depp as an aspiring pop idol who has a nervous breakdown and plans a comeback. She then begins a relationship with a cult leader, played by Tesfaye, and the pair embark on a journey that could make or break one or both of them.

The show was inspired by a conversation Tesfaye had with Levinson.

“Abel came to us with a pitch,” Levinson told W Magazine. “He said something that I’ll always remember: ‘If I wanted to start a cult, I could.’ What he meant is that his fans were so loyal and devoted that they would follow him anywhere. That was the germ of the idea for The Idol: what happens when a pop star falls for the wrong guy and no one speaks up.”

Updated: May 16, 2023, 8:35 AM