1. Music

The Weeknd’s ‘Heartless’ Chart Debut: Five Burning Questions

“The fall begins tomorrow,” tweeted the artist born Abel Tesfaye on Nov. 25. Technically it was already two months into the season, however after all it is by no means correct cold-weather season with out new music from The Weeknd, who dropped his new single “Heartless” the subsequent evening at midnight. 

Though the track had only a couple days of full monitoring to work with after its midweek launch, “Heartless” nonetheless made its bow within the high half on this week’s Hot 100, debuting at No. 32. And that is not the final we heard from Abel final week, both, as he adopted the booming “Heartless” with the nervy “Blinding Lights” only a day later. 

How resounding a comeback is that this for The Weeknd? And how a lot potential does it need to get even higher from right here? Billboard staffers debate these questions and extra beneath. 

1. “Heartless” managed a No. 32 debut with lower than two days of full streams and downloads — fairly good, although not so good as his well-known ex did just lately in a equally truncated first week. How comfortable would you be with that end in the event you had been Mr. Tesfaye? 

Tatiana Cirisano: I’d be a teeny bit upset. To be clear, a No. 32 debut is nothing to shrug at. But The Weeknd was one of many greatest names in mainstream pop on the planet just some years in the past, and I’d have anticipated a barely greater reception — particularly for a track so epically wrapped up in public relationship drama, and particularly after a three-year drought between full initiatives. (I loved final 12 months’s seven-track My Dear Melancholy EP, however we haven’t had an album-album since late 2016’s Starboy.)

Eric Frankenberg: I suppose it’s OK. While he had fairly the maintain over the Hot 100 in 2015-17, The Weeknd has by no means absolutely existed as a “singles artist,” so to talk. The mixture of “Heartless” and “Blinding Lights” is an enormous re-introduction for him, and even when the lead single doesn’t yield the identical chart outcomes as “Can’t Feel My Face” or “Starboy,” it looks like an excellent place to begin with extra streaming fodder to inevitably come.

Carl Lamarre: I would not be tripping if I was Abel. I suppose he made a splashy return with not one, however two high quality singles, with little-to-no discover. Anytime The Weeknd drops, he’ll proceed to trigger waves simply because he has the juice of a perennial hitmaker. We know Abel can shortly soar into the top-10 with “Heartless,” particularly since he is releasing the video imminently. Plus, these songs are simply appetizers proper earlier than he carts out the actual entrée — his full album. 

Jason Lipshutz: “Heartless” strikes me as extra of a gap assertion for the Weeknd’s subsequent period than a extra substantial or radio-ready return, so a high 40 debut is completely superb provided that context. It’s additionally value noting that “Heartless” launched throughout a comparatively wonky launch week because of the Thanksgiving vacation, so the variety of streams he collected whereas everybody within the United States was piling on extra turkey or watching the Buffalo Bills play soccer is definitely fairly spectacular.

Andrew Unterberger: It’s superb, however it’s not likely a bursting-with-excitement tally by late-2019 requirements — the place the No. 15 debut for Selena Gomez’s “Lose You to Love Me” actually made you are taking discover that one thing particular was occurring with the track, that is extra like “eh, fair enough.” I’d have a minimum of held out hope for just a little extra had been I Abel.  

2. What sort of potential do you suppose “Heartless” has to develop on the charts from right here? How excessive do you suppose it will probably go on the Hot 100? 

Tatiana Cirisano: “Heartless” is basic Abel: A woozy, hedonistic journey of R&B laced with lure, plus an addictive hook and a gentle provide of prompt quotables. I suppose it’ll a minimum of go high 20, however I wouldn’t be stunned to see it attain the highest 10, particularly if a truncated first week already launched it at No. 32.

Eric Frankenberg: Considering its No. 32 debut was primarily based on two days of exercise, and the truth that it’s nonetheless sitting fairly atop Spotify’s US chart, I’d say it has robust potential. While it doesn’t essentially meet my private expectations when it comes to innovation or experimentation, it does really feel of-the-moment and like one thing that may play alongside lots of the greatest hits of the final couple years. If I needed to guess, a high 5 placement might be a lock. I don’t know that it has the cultural momentum to go to No. 1 however the higher area of the Hot 100 was been comparatively gentle currently so The Weeknd’s comeback might be sufficient to push this one to the highest.

Carl Lamarre: As I talked about with my first reply, I suppose The Weeknd can zoom into the highest 10, and even the highest 5, with ease. We’ve watched the No. 1 spot change fingers so many instances these previous couple of months that it would not shock me if The Weeknd carved out one other chart-topping single with “Heartless.” Also, the highest songs of the Hot 100, has remained fairly regular this 12 months with just a bit shuffle in sure spots. I suppose “Heartless” has sufficient spice to unseat any of these data as soon as radio and his video launch comes into play. 

Jason Lipshutz: I’m just a little stumped right here, as a result of “Heartless” definitely isn’t as primed for a high 40 takeover as Weeknd singles of years previous, and even the opposite track he launched final week… however that unforgiving beat-hook mixture might be dominating DJ units all through the chilly winter months. “Heartless” may take a short while to get occurring the charts as a result of its content material isn’t as instant as a “Can’t Feel My Face” or “Starboy,” however the track has a uncooked magnetism that might information it into the highest 10 in early 2020.

Andrew Unterberger: A heavy-hitter’s resumé plus a gentle interval on the late-decade chart schedule definitely seems conducive to “Heartless” making a sizeable second-week soar, and certain ending the calendar 12 months — properly, the pre-Christmas-rush portion anyway — within the high 10. Will it comply with “Face” and “Starboy” to the highest, making it three straight lead single No. 1s for The Weeknd? I’m skeptical. 

3. Like Selena Gomez, The Weeknd additionally adopted his comeback launch with “Blinding Lights” the subsequent day. Which of the 2 do you like, and what do you consider this normal one-right-after-the-other launch technique?

Tatiana Cirisano: “Blinding Lights” is rising on me. What can I say — I’m a sucker for these brilliant, polished synths. Regardless, I suppose the one-two-punch launch technique is helpful for an artist in comeback mode. Not solely does doubling down get (and maintain) followers excited, however it helps artists introduce their subsequent venture with out risking that venture changing into mechanically tied to the sound of its lead single. With these releases, The Weeknd doesn’t have to decide on between catering to the mainstream pop sensibility (“Blinding Lights”) and his day-one, core fanbase (“Heartless”) — or higher but, between those that favor the in-his-feelings Abel versus the cold-as-ice Abel. 

Eric Frankenberg: Neither track breaks any main floor, however I favor the melody and groove of “Blinding Lights” to the been-there-done-that of “Heartless.” The one-two punch technique jogs my memory of Beyoncé’s I Am…Sasha Fierce singles, or some simultaneous releases from Rihanna throughout her radio-takeover eras. But whereas two-singles-at-once was once for the aim of dominating a number of radio codecs, it now is useful within the streaming period. It’s been tough for songs, sans-remix, to essentially make a dent on the Hot 100 following the discharge of an album, since followers can digest the complete factor directly free of charge (or what looks like free). So placing out as many songs as potential earlier than the complete album permits for a much bigger general footprint on singles-based charts.

Carl Lamarre: “Heartless” is such a physique blow for relationship purists as a result of it is drenched with toxicity. It’s your quintessential f–k boy anthem. In a cuffing season the place the lovebug is operating rampant, The Weeknd prolonged City Boyz’s summer season reign with this scorcher. 

Jason Lipshutz: Popular artists are more and more discovering inspiration from the lovely little lady within the “Why don’t we have both?” meme: in the event you’re torn between releasing an uptempo observe or one thing extra contemplative as a lead single, launch two singles, monitor which one the world is embracing extra fervently, then double down on the chosen one. “Blinding Lights” is the extra kinetic, and in the end superior, new Weeknd observe — it feels like a funhouse-mirror model of A-Ha’s “Take On Me,” and Abel’s wounded-crooner persona will get to wrap itself round a killer refrain. I’ll take this track changing into inescapable for the subsequent three months, please and thanks.

Andrew Unterberger: Gimme “Blinding Lights.” To be sincere, I suppose “Heartless” is sort of a bust — it looks like Abel going via the motions, notably lyrically, and whereas the manufacturing definitely pops, it does not actually have that shock of the surprising that “Face” and “Starboy” had. Not positive “Blinding Lights” is a basic but both, precisely, however I’ve had a gentle spot for post-punk/new wave The Weeknd ever since he first sampled Siouxsie and the Banshees, and that is not stopping anytime quickly. (Justice for “False Alarm”!) 

4. The Weeknd naming a track “Heartless” with out acknowledging Kanye West’s 2009 hit of the identical identify in any manner: Forgivable or no? 

Tatiana Cirisano: Eh, forgivable. Even although my thoughts instantly went to Kanye’s model, I don’t suppose the title use requires an overt acknowledgement — “Heartless” isn’t almost as particular or distinctive a title as, say, “Love Lockdown.” It’s just a little too ubiquitous a phrase in music to personal, even if you’re Kanye West. And for somebody who has written about heartbreak as a lot, and as deftly, as Abel, “Heartless” is fairly on-brand. You may say he even “Earned It” (sorry).

Eric Frankenberg: Forgivable. Kanye’s track assaults an ex, The Weeknd’s assaults himself. Kanye’s was the poppiest track on an in any other case gloomy document, whereas Abel’s is the hedonistic tails towards the Top-40 heads of “Blinding Lights.” The songs are totally different sufficient to keep away from direct comparability.

Carl Lamarre: I’m positive Kanye is not anxious the slightest bit, so why ought to we be? I can perceive if Abel adopted the identical somber blueprint as Ye, however his model strikes a special chord — it is aggressive, menacing, and the man is definitely on the assault versus enjoying the sufferer on Ye’s rendition. Plus, Metro Boomin’ added some additional sauce to make Abel’s model knock more durable. 

Jason Lipshutz: Eh, it’s forgivable, particularly contemplating the truth that the Kanye West track got here out 10 years in the past and doesn’t actually maintain up as certainly one of his extra vital singles. If Abel’s subsequent single is known as “Love Lockdown” and Yeezy will get no credit score, then we all know one thing fishy is occurring.

Andrew Unterberger: Maybe forgivable, however inexcusably lazy. 

5. “Heartless” is certainly one of a staggering 20 high 40 hits The Weeknd has scored on the Hot 100 this decade. Which do you suppose you will keep in mind most fondly within the 2020s and past? 

Tatiana Cirisano: “The Hills” will all the time be good. The mixture of its sinister, scream-like hook, Abel’s haunting vocals and metallic manufacturing make the track unimaginable to overlook.

Eric Frankenberg: “The Hills.” Not solely did Beauty Behind the Madness have its share of bangers, The Weeknd’s 2014-15 profession and creative transformation was itself a showstopper. At the tipping level of pop assembly with the underground, he went from unknown Canadian anti-hero to king of the Hot 100 with out dropping any of what set him other than the beginning. And “The Hills” summed all of that up – the medication, the intercourse, and the hooks that make it each his finest and defining single.

Carl Lamarre: “I Feel It Coming” was such a banger. It’s uncommon for somebody to provide off true Michael Jackson vibes, however he and Daft Punk delivered a house run of a document with that one. I additionally respect how, as an artist, he got here out of the gate as this elusive, hidden determine when he debuted in 2011 with House of Balloons — with such a robust voice and such magnetic storytelling that he was in a position to captivate listeners with out having to do a lot on the bodily entrance. Then, when he did emerge from the shadows, he embraced the concept of superstardom and have become a stone-cold killer. The mystique of Abel stays, even after his highly-publicized relationships and ever-growing star energy. That’s a present we should not take without any consideration. 

Jason Lipshutz: “Can’t Feel My Face,” solely due to the generation-spanning enchantment — it’s a track that personifies drug abuse, however rattling if I didn’t play it at my wedding ceremony reception in 2015. The Weeknd has extra putting hits, from “The Hills” to the very best highs of House of Balloons, however the (comparatively) family-friendly “Can’t Feel My Face” will endure.

Andrew Unterberger: It’s “The Hills,” however one which’s actually grown on me properly is My Dear Melancholy‘s “I Was Never There,” a brutal torch track with a ghostly vocal, and French producer Gesaffelstein’s trademark synths whining within the background like nagging doubt behind your cranium. Hope the 2 work collectively extra on Abel’s subsequent LP. 

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