Allegedly “shrouded in mystery” despite a social media presence (with accompanying photos) on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Soundcloud, and YouTube, as well as major support from fellow Torontonian Drake, alternative R&B act the Weeknd -- a solo outlet for vocalist Abel Tesfaye -- surfaced in March 2011 with House of Balloons. A nine-track, 50-minute mixtape made available for free download on the Weeknd website, House of Balloons was based in morose ballads filled with drug references and sexual longing. Sonically, there were clear traces of radio-friendly contemporary R&B à la Trey Songz, Jeremih, the-Dream, and Drake, while also appealing to listeners who favored left-of-center, production-over-songcraft exponents like Spacek and Sa-Ra. The mixtape, made by Tesfaye in collaboration with producers Doc McKinney and Illangelo, among others, garnered widespread coverage -- most of which was gushingly positive -- within days of its March 21 release. A second mixtape, Thursday (August 19), preceded several appearances on Drake's album Take Care. Echoes of Silence (December 21), the third Weeknd mixtape, followed just before the end of the year. The following June, "Crew Love," off Take Care, reached the Top Ten of Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart. A few months later, he was featured on another charting single, Wiz Khalifa's "Remember You."
After Tesfaye signed with Universal Republic, the three Weeknd mixtapes were remastered and bundled with three new songs for Trilogy, issued in November 2012. The set debuted at number four on the Billboard 200 chart. The following April, Tesfaye won Juno Awards in the categories of Breakthrough Artist of the Year and R&B/Soul Recording of the Year. Trilogy was certified platinum by the RIAA the next month. Kiss Land, much darker in tone than its title implied, followed in September 2013. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi