The Weeknd Says ‘GTA’ Helped ‘Open My Eyes’ to ’80s Music, Talks Next Album

If you ever felt like you were riding around Vice City while blasting the Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights,” you weren’t alone. Odds are, he’s felt that, too.

Gracing the latest cover of Billboard, the Weeknd caught up with staff writer Heran Mamo about the monumental hit—which the magazine has now named the top Hot 100 song of all time thanks to its unrelenting chart dominance. For the Weeknd, his love for ’80s music—which greatly inspired After Hours—came from a pretty obvious (and virtual) place.

[Grand Theft Auto:] Vice City really opened my eyes to a lot of ’80s music, so there was a nostalgia for when I was a kid playing video games and listening to Hall & Oates and Michael Jackson while driving through the city,” Abel Tesfaye explained.

The Weeknd—who has now beat out Chubby Checker’s ’60s classic “The Twist” for the all-time charting title—also elaborated on what inspired his red-suit get-up and the visual elements that came along with it, all of which he’s retired as he works his way toward his latest era. 

“From Jack Nicholson’s character in Chinatown to the film Possession to Tim Robbins in Jacob’s Ladder, it’s just all of my favorite psychological thrillers and dramas in one universe,” Abel explained. 

The Billboard article also included insight from several After Hours collaborators, including legendary pop producer Max Martin, but the Weeknd didn’t skimp on an opportunity to discuss his upcoming pandemic-driven project The Dawn, which he says “would be too ambitious for me prior” and that he “didn’t have the skill sets to deliver that type of project until now.”

“Picture the album being like the listener is dead,” Abel said. “And they’re stuck in this purgatory state, which I always imagined would be like being stuck in traffic waiting to reach the light at the end of the tunnel. And while you’re stuck in traffic, they got a radio station playing in the car, with a radio host guiding you to the light and helping you transition to the other side. So it could feel celebratory, could feel bleak, however you want to make it feel, but that’s what The Dawn is for me.”

As he’s teased in the past, The Dawn is surely coming. And as he now puts it, the overall sound of the project is anyone’s guess, but Abel has some ideas.

“So you’ll hear EDM, hip-hop, and three other types of sounds in one song—and somehow, we make it work,” the Weeknd said.

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