The Weeknd Talks Emmy Nom, Super Bowl Memes and New Album

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The Weeknd wasn’t expecting an Emmy nomination for his Super Bowl performance. Even still, the artist — also known by his real name Abel Tesfaye — is grateful for the “pleasant surprise.” The Emmy nod for Outstanding Variety Special comes in stark contrast to The Weeknd’s most recent album After Hours — the most-streamed R&B album of all time — going unrecognized at the 2021 Grammy Awards.

Just weeks after it was announced that he would be headlining the Pepsi Super Bowl LV Halftime Show, The Weeknd was shockingly snubbed at the Grammys — a shutout that stunned fans and critics alike. The three-time Grammy Award winner publicly expressed his frustration at the Recording Academy, even going so far as to boycott the awards show.

But the performer has a new project that could be an awards contender — his latest album, which fans speculate will be titled The Dawn Is Coming, is being released later this year. He’s also spent a majority of his summer back and forth between the recording studio and the writer’s room — that is, for the development of his new HBO show in collaboration with Euphoria creator Sam Levinson.

“I don’t even know what winding down really means,” Tesfaye said of his work-life balance or lack thereof. “I love to work. I love my job. I love to create.” Above all, The Weeknd misses performing for his fans. In regard to plans for an upcoming tour, Tesfaye is “curious to see how the year unfolds” amid the uncertainty of the pandemic. “I’m kind of just living in the moment right now,” he said.

The Super Bowl Halftime Show is one of the most watched performances on live television. Did you feel any pressure going into such an undertaking? 

Oh yeah, absolutely. Naturally. Just the idea that it’s the Super Bowl alone, you know, there was that pressure. Then, having to adjust to what we’re dealing with and making it a COVID-safe, COVID-free environment. The silver lining was that we got to be very creative and got to make it a cinematic journey — less of a halftime show spectacle, more of a narrative. So there was a silver lining in that, but we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. We were kind of blind, but it turned out great.

Do you have any favorite Super Bowl halftime performances from the past? Any influences that you pulled from?

Diana Ross’s performance is my favorite. Definitely. It’s the most fun and she just looked like she was having the best time.

Your performance generated a lot of memes, specifically the one moment when you’re moving with the camera in your hand. Did you see any of those? 

Oh, I couldn’t escape it (Laughs). No, but it was fun, though. I’m glad that we got some memorable moments from the Super Bowl and, you know, they’re memories that we can look back at to a time that felt important. But it was fun, I enjoyed them.

This past year, you’ve been pretty open about your feelings towards the Grammys and awards shows, in general. How does it feel to be recognized by the Emmys this year?

It was definitely unexpected. I had no idea that it was even possible to get nominated for an Emmy for the Super Bowl, so I was very grateful. I found out that they submitted for me, but I had no idea that you could submit. So, it was a pleasant surprise.

With each new album, your sound always seems to be evolving. What’s that process like for you?

It’s organic, but you know, I don’t want to force it. If I’m enjoying a sound or I’m feeling something and it’s inspiring me, then I’ll stay in that world. I do try to change it up as much as I can, but it’s gotta feel organic.

Pre-pandemic, you were well established in the festival circuit, even headlining Coachella. Do you miss festival performing?

Oh my God, I just miss performing in general, especially this album. I didn’t get to really perform it to my fans. There’s just something about going on tour, and even going on festival runs, and just experiencing new music with the crowd. Hopefully we get to do that.

Many concerts are looking to require vaccination for attendees. Do you think that’s something that you’ll follow suit in for upcoming tours?

Definitely. We’re just kind of like everyone else. We’re curious to see how the year unfolds, and it’s kind of a question mark. I’m kind of just living in the moment right now.

With new projects constantly coming down the pipeline, are you ever able to wind down and rest?

I feel like Kathryn [his publicist] can answer that question. I don’t even know what winding down really means, I just love work, you know. I love to work. I love my job. I love to create. And if I do take a vacation, it can’t be for too long because I feel like I’m missing out on everything that I could be doing. So, yeah. I try my best, but no, I haven’t in a while. I do staycations if that counts.

Can you tell me about your new album The Dawn Is Coming and upcoming projects

Yeah, I’m finishing the new album right now. It should be done by the end of this month and we’re just kind of figuring out when to put it out. It’s been really cool because I’m working on this album this summer simultaneously with the writer’s room for the new TV show. So, I’ve been kind of going back and forth from finishing the album and pending up the show that we’re going to start shooting soon. It’s been quite a summer.

Any cool collaborations that you’re excited to debut?

I plead the fifth on that one (Laughs).

Interview edited for length and clarity.

This interview originally appeared in The Hollywood Reporter.

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