On November 15, the Recording Academy announced the 2023 Grammy nominees. Absent from that list was The Weeknd. If you think he was snubbed (again), you thought wrong. After one of the most stupefying oversights in Grammy history following smash hit “Blinding Lights” in 2021, the Canadian superstar famously announced that he would “no longer allow [his] label to submit [his] music to the Grammys.”
So then begs the question, where was he this November when the nominations were announced? Playing multiple nights at some of the biggest stadiums in the world wrapping up his After Hours ’Til Dawn Tour.
The Weeknd is a singer, songwriter, and record producer known for his dark, often indulgent lyricism explored in a variety of sonic landscapes. His music explores deep emotion, often aided by personal experience. Blending vulgar topics such as sex, drugs, and partying with elegant falsettos, he played the Super Bowl LV Halftime show in 2021, cementing himself into legendary star status.
Starting with “Alone Again,” backup dancers cloaked in red walk down the aisle that splits Sofi Stadium, lined in a row. They stop and stand completely still, as if in a trance. The Weeknd sings acrobatic melodies with ease, commanding the stage with striking poses and swift hand gestures.
The audience sings along to “How Do I Make You Love Me,” and he answers that he already “love[s] you, Los Angeles!” The crowd erupts in cheers, as if he’s singing to each one of them.
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Torches light the stage at the beginning of “The Hills,” and as he sings, “I only call you when it’s half past five,” the biggest beat of the night echoes throughout the stadium as a dozen flames erupt in the center of the stadium. Light-up wristbands flash with the song as the crowd hits their fists against the air in unison.
In an almost deejay-style fashion, The Weeknd’s songs bleed into each other with preset beat tracks, keeping the energy at an all-time high the entire night. The setlist covers many of his worldwide hits including “Often,” “Heartless,” and “I Feel It Coming.” “Call Out My Name” is a moment of anguish in the set, as The Weeknd sings the brutal lyric, “I almost cut a piece of myself for your life. Guess I was just another pit stop, ’til you made up your mind.” During fan favorite and recent sleeper hit “Die For You,” The Weeknd moves under the giant color-changing moon prop opposing the stage, basking in its glow, his gentle vibrato offering a delightful contrast to the intensity of his soulful delivery.
Towards the end of the performance, recent hit “Less Than Zero” offers a softer feel to the night, with delicate synths parading against the stadium walls as blue light washes over the stage. “Blinding Lights” closes out the show, as fans dance with a fervor reserved for artists that connect on the universal scale The Weeknd has continuously proved he can.
Heading off stage, The Weeknd stops just before exiting, fog machines creating an enigmatic cloud shrouding his face. As golden light flashes across the stadium in time to the last beats of the backing track, you can just make out a silhouette of him, head held high, face tilted back into the sky, beaming.