Abel Tesfaye – the man behind The Weeknd – directed this brand new video for the lovesick, falsetto track ‘Rolling Stone’ himself, and you can tell. It’s not only obvious because of the lingering, indulgent way in which the camera revolves around his head, his meaningful stares and his ego, but also because it quietly frames the insecurities of the song itself, in a way that only its creator could have tapped into.
As he sings alone in an empty room, and self-consciously into a camera, Abel’s performance of the song is simultaneously as lonely and as exposing as his initial rise to fame was. With female arms sliding around his neck and extreme focus on every detail of his mildly perturbed – even uncomfortable – face, the singer is anchored to the spot by pressure to perform, and the wide-eyed stare of the camera. For a man who spent a great deal of last year being faceless, this video is a statement, a stepping forward into the spotlight.
When the camera flashes begin around Abel’s wailing of the lyric “I think I’ll be different”, the change is sealed. The Weeknd is already different. He has now completely lost the allure of mystery, of being faceless, and he is acknowledging this change by offering his face, purely and simply, to the world. He hopes he won’t be different; he hopes you’ll still listen. But as the woman’s arms disappear from around his neck, Abel is left singing his heart-wrenching hook, “I got you”, to no one in particular.
It’s not the smartest or slickest video released this year, but the simple narrative of Abel’s latest offering is that he’s terrified of losing his fans now, and that he’s hoping that beyond the glamour and the elusiveness, his own sheer talent can be enough to keep the love he earned in 2011. It just goes to show, you don’t need a blank Tumblr and an un-Google-able name to keep yourself interesting. As long as little surprises like this keep coming, The Weeknd will always be worth sitting up and listening to.