The first hint that Abel Tesfaye, a.k.a. The Weeknd, was prepping something new came last week. On Thursday, the singer tweeted a cryptic message along with a sunrise emoji: “say your final goodbyes…” To what? To whom? Then last night, another tease: “f*ck it … IT STARTS TONIGHT.” And within a couple hours, the biggest tease of all: a nearly two-minute video featuring new music, presumably from The Weeknd’s highly anticipated follow up to last year’s After Hours.
The clip, titled “The Dawn Is Coming,” landed on YouTube a little after midnight and features more sunrise imagery set to a charging beat and electronic flourishes that bring to mind a dark inversion of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love.”
The preview coincides with the publication of GQ’s September cover story on The Weeknd. Journalist Mark Anthony Green got to hear parts of the as yet untitled new album for the story. Here’s what he had to say about it: “The music hit the studio like a Mack truck. The new project is packed with party records. Like real-deal, illuminated-white-tiles-on-the-floor party records. Quincy Jones meets Giorgio Moroder meets the best-night-of-your-fucking-life party records. Not anachronistic disco stuff… Sweaty. Hard. Drenched-suit, grinding-on-the-girl/boy-of-your-dreams party records.”
In their interview, Tesfaye reveals that he’s currently “sober lite.” While he still indulges in the occasional drink and smokes weed, the artist says he’s given up harder substances: “Drugs were a crutch. It was me thinking that I needed it. And not doing the work to figure out how not to need it. And I’ve spent the last few years realizing that and thanking God that I don’t need it. Because for a lot of people, it’s hard to shake it. But I knew I didn’t want it.”
Tesfaye also clarified his stance on the Grammys, reiterating that he has no plans to submit his future work to the Recording Academy. He’s not even interested in whatever behind-the-scenes calculus went into Grammy voters’ decision to completely shut After Hours out of the 2021 awards. “I just don’t care,” he tells Green. “Because that will never be the reason why I do what I do. It never really was before. And I’m glad that I can make music and not have to think about that. I’ll never be in that conversation ever again.”
The Weeknd is currently scheduled to head out on tour early next year. We wouldn’t be surprised to hear more new music in the coming months.