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The 50 Best Weeknd Songs

From dark alt-R&B jams to sleek summer hits to synth-pop revelations, and beyond

Photographs in photo illustration by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images; Rich Fury/Getty Images; John Salangsang/Invision/AP

If you had “Siouxsie and the Banshees fan from Canada remakes R&B in his own image” on your Pop Music in the 2010s bingo card, congratulations! Abel Tesfaye came out of Toronto in 2011 with a stunning series of spacey, sepulchral EPs that proved the start of a landmark run. Pretty soon he was lacing summer hits, sharing tracks with Ariana and Lana, creating epic albums like After Hours and this year’s excellent Dawn FM, and even playing the Super Bowl. To coincide with the release of his new Amazon special, The Weeknd x The Dawn FM Experience (available this Saturday), we’ve decided to honor the Weeknd’s decade of moody pop dominance, with our list of his 50 greatest songs. You’ve earned it!

From Rolling Stone US

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‘Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey)’ (2015)

Wherein the most sexually explicit songwriter of the PornHub era makes the lead single for the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack. “Earned It” (and a very-NSFW video) introduced perfectly Tesfaye’s silk-sheets vibe to mainstream ears. Written in D-minor, which, as  Spinal Tap taught us, is the “saddest key,” “Earned It” is  a Grammy-winning chart-topper full of strings severe and seductive, that falsetto and, of course, a love too weird to last. —J.G.


‘High for This’ (2011)

“You want to be high for this,” trills the Weeknd on the opening track of his first, career-launching House of Balloons mixtape. It’s a perfect introduction to the Weeknd’s groundbreaking aesthetic: an opiate atmosphere, a sound that hovers between darkwave and bedroom R&B, and endless sensorial delights. Cirkut’s beat is a synthesized whirl of throbbing, stop-start percussion and eerie, organ-like keys, all fodder for the Weeknd to red-pill his listeners: “Open your hand/Take a glass/Don’t be scared/I’m right here.” —M.R.

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‘Can’t Feel My Face’ (2015)

One of the Weeknd’s biggest hits was a dashed-off afterthought. Tesfaye was hanging out with some of his songwriting collaborators, listening to “some modern, disco-y influenced tracks,” as he once said, when they all felt the urge the jam. The whole song — three and a half minutes of R&B-inflected pop with a bouncy, beautifully numbing chorus that may or may not be about cocaine — came together in 40 minutes at the end of Tesfaye’s Beauty Behind the Madness sessions and almost didn’t make the cut. But Tesfaye believed in the song, which became a Number One hit and has since been certified eight-times platinum. —K.G.

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‘Gasoline’ (2022)

Tesfaye has always been great at packaging pop thrills in deep despair (and vice versa). The nihilistic despair of this Dawn FM gem is neatly tucked away in the song’s gasoline-soaked sheen. Even its darkest lines — from “I know you won’t let me OD” to “In this game called life/We are not free” — are barely detectable in the midst of all that New Wave euphoria, like the Weeknd had too much fun getting high to the Cars. Please cover “Drive” next. —A.M.

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Kevin Mazur/MTV VMAs 2020/Getty Images


‘Escape From LA’ (2020)

Nine years after the Weeknd declared “Cali is the mission” on “The Morning,” he backtracks on this cautionary tale, revisiting a theme that’s prevalent throughout his discography: an obsession over the Hollywood lifestyle that’s just as strong as his contempt for it. Four minutes in, the vibe switches (getting somehow darker) and the Weeknd tells the tale of a Chrome Hearts-clad woman who waits for him to cut his verse before moving on to … other activities. Considering how good this song turned out, we appreciate her patience. —W.A.

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‘Blinding Lights’ (2019)

No pop sound is too dated for the Weeknd to have some fun with: As long as it’s got a little sparkle, he’ll find a way to use it. “Blinding Lights” broke chart records by leaning all the way into a synth-pop jingle that sounds like a Eurovision contender or a mid-2000s ringtone, singing the hell out of each hook in a vaguely Goth accent and daring you to call him cheugy. It’s so spectacularly catchy, you’ll never get the chance. —S.V.L.

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‘Wicked Games’ (2011)

The Weeknd’s first single is a sensual, slow-grooving meditation on coming of age — feeling comfortable in your own skin and grappling with differences between love and lust, but “only for tonight.” In the space of five and a half minutes, Tesfaye tells a movie-length story: He’s just broken up with his girl, he took out all his cash and spent it on coke and his date, and he just wants to feel like a human being. “Bring your love, baby, I could bring my shame,” he sings. “Bring the drugs, baby, I could bring my pain, I got my heart right here.” It’s heavy stuff for a pop song, and it established him as an artist who could tackle Big Problems in a way that makes you want to sing along with him. —K.G.

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‘The Hills’ (2015)

A sound-design masterpiece and the quintessential Weeknd hit, with all the pop instincts of his crossover blockbuster era and all the sleaze and self-loathing of his avant-R&B early years. “The Hills” mesmerizes and rebukes like a MIDI-enabled version of Francisco Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son. Tesfaye limps through fame’s panopticon before launching into a falsetto war of the spirit (“When I’m fucked up, that’s the real me,” he wails). Somehow, this meticulous smear of muted screams, tolling bells, growly sub-bass, and filtered-to-hell synths reached No. 1 and was eventually certified diamond (10 million copies sold). —C.A.