The Weeknd’s departure from Drake's OVO affiliation was a quiet but noticeable one, as the two stopped collaborating while never actually addressing what really went down. While Drake is notorious for taking subliminal shots at various rappers, it’s not necessary for The Weeknd to go on that messy route. If the 6 God does decide to call him out first (like he’s done with many artists in the past), then the two-time Billboard Hot 100 chart-topper has all the more reason to throw shots back. But in the meantime, just stick with giving us great hooks and dark storylines. –Bianca Gracie
Once you hear the dark, bubbling common thread in the songs made/touched by this very much still-rising XO producer, you kinda just wanna call him your new favorite. He's helped shape The Weeknd's post-mixtape sound with songs like "Often," "Acquainted" (best track on BBTM?) and the new single "False Alarm." He's made an art of working on Weeknd-y songs on marquee albums...which The Weeknd himself always shows up for. (Beyoncé's "6 Inch," Future's double-platinum "Low Life," Travis Scott's "Pray 4 Love.") Hoping Ben Billions keeps making a career out of being one of Abel's key guys. –Zach Dionne
In his Wall Street Journal profile, The Weeknd revealed his new album owes “a thousand percent” of its inspiration to David Bowie and Prince. The Starboy title even pays homage to Bowie’s 1972 single "Starman." (Not to mention his final album, from January, was called...Blackstar.) So it’ll be fun to hear The Weeknd dabble more outside his sonic comfort zone, by playing around with funk, glam rock and experimental pop. He’s already tried his hand at punk with “False Alarm,” but let’s see him go wild and dig even deeper.
Make a song for every one of these movies, if need be; make two. Like, "Earned It (FIFTY SHADES OF GREY)" went to No. 3 and got you into the Ellie Goulding–sphere. And Fifty Shades Darker's first trailer has the most single-day views ever, with 114 million in its first day online. But...if you end up with a time machine, consider a 2015 pitstop to snip that title out of there, and just definitely don't do it again this time. –Zach Dionne
Labrinth, a tremendously evocative 27-year-old London singer signed with Simon Cowell, helped The Weeknd tap into a whole new frequency of duet-dom on "Losers." Maty Noyes, 18 at the time of BBTM, brought a chillingly human vocal at the end of the bordering-on-comically-grandiose "Angel," grounding the entire album at its very finish. –Zach Dionne
The biggest fault in Beauty Behind the Madness was The Weeknd relying on major pop names like Ed Sheeran and Lana Del Rey to help him carry the project. Their presence was jarring and didn’t help to make the album stronger. He's officially a bona fide pop star now, and he doesn’t need random (and incredibly weak) collaborations to solidify that title. –Bianca Gracie
Choosing a single perfect pop collaborator could lead to magnificent results. Having one intriguing, pop-leaning guest star might make for a brilliant duet.
There's a few ways we could imagine this working well. He could go with someone in his realm of the R&B-pop world, someone like Tinashe, who's already proven she can successfully teeter on the edge of trendy alt-R&B and pop. The Weeknd could pick up pop vocalists like Christina Aguilera or Zara Larsson, both of whom would successfully answer his howls (a la Ariana Grande on "Love Me Harder"). Or we could even see him pulling a surprise and giving his co-sign to an unexpected newcomer like Troye Sivan, who's proven he can create hauntingly good pop music with deeper messages. –Jeff Benjamin
One of the moments that solidified The Weeknd as a necessary artist to watch was his cover of Michael Jackson's "Dirty Diana" (titled "D.D.") on his trilogy-closing mixtape Echoes of Silence. Flipping the MJ classic into a slow-grinding, haunting tune proved how Abel was carving a sonic lane of his own. Depending on where he takes a new Michael cover, this could still give indication of where he's going as an artist.
After successfully crossing over with Beauty Behind the Madness, there's a lot of people wondering how The Weeknd can continue to keep his alt-R&B-pop sound fresh. A new Jackson cover would throw a bone to his longtime fans and simultaneously be a clear signpost of what's to come. –Jeff Benjamin