Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, better known as The Weeknd, has become one of the biggest stars of modern music. His stunning vocal styles, dark lyrical exploration, self-loathing themes, and music inspired by personal experience have helped him resonate with millions of fans around the world.
Today, he sits as one of the best-selling recording artists in history with over 75 million worldwide record sales and set records on the Billboard charts with his singles. In this article, we’ll look at 41 of The Weeknd’s absolute best songs—at least so far.
1. Blinding Lights
Blinding Lights didn’t just top the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks, it set records for the most time spent in both the top five and Top 10 of that chart as well, becoming the first song to be on the latter for over a year.
It’s easily The Weeknd’s most successful track on the charts, taking over the charts in Canada and a few other countries as well. On Spotify alone, it saw over 1.5 billion streams in 2020. The musical genius and atmosphere of the song obviously struck a nerve during the pandemic and was just insanely catchy.
2. The Hills
The Hills was perhaps the best representation of The Weeknd during the beginning of his career. The song would eventually reach number one and find a diamond certification, but what a ride.
It’s dark, it’s gloomy, and it really takes the darker, pop-synth of this singer to another level. The same styles and themes that made this track so popular continue to appear throughout his music, though he has shifted on some singles to a more pop-centric style that has worked to his advantage in commercial markets.
3. Escape from LA
A common theme of The Weeknd’s music is cautioning that obsessing over the Hollywood dream isn’t the best idea. While earlier work from him seemed to strive for it, later work shows his contempt for it. Critically, this track was ranked as the worst song from his After Hours album, but looking back at it paints a very different story.
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4. Wicked Games
Wicked Games was The Weeknd’s first single and my first introduction to him. Its themes are heavy, especially for a pop song, delving into the differences between love and lust and just crying out to try and feel something at all.
It has a great beat and deeply emotional vocals, and it’s a slow groove you can get into anywhere, anytime. The track only made it to number 53 on the Hot 100, but climbed within reach of the Top 10 on the R&B charts in the US and was certified double platinum by the RIAA.
Starboy saw The Weeknd team up with Daft Punk on his third studio album and again deals with the extravagance of the celebrity lifestyle. Mixing electropop with his brand of R&B, the song became his third number-one single and Daft Punks’ only number-one track. It took the number one spot in the US, Canada, Mexico, Denmark, France, New Zealand, Norway, and Sweden, all before being certified diamond in the US by the RIAA.
6. Coming Down
Coming Down mirrors the effect of coming out of being really high with its hazy feel and the harshness of coming face to face with cold reality.
An entry from his early House Of Balloons mixtape, the song includes some not-so-sorry apologies for his actions while high as a way to try to salvage a relationship with the person he hurt while he was out of it. The mixtape version sampled a vocal line from the anime Fate/Stay Night, but this was dropped for the version that appeared on the remastered version.
7. King of the Fall
Originally released as a promotional single to promote an upcoming tour, King Of The Fall would wind up being one of The Weeknd’s best songs. It was released alongside Often, which made it onto his next album while this track ended up being dropped.
Because of the weird digital release, it couldn’t initially be tracked on the Hot 100, but after an official release in 2020, it made it to number 18 on the Hot R&B Songs chart. It contains some of the most potent verses he has ever laid down and is more than worth your time.
8. I Feel it Coming
Another team-up with Daft Punk and another hit song for The Weeknd. Unfortunately, it was also Daft Punk’s final song before their breakup in 2021. At the BMI R&B/Hip-Hop Awards, the track was named Song of The Year. While not particularly a groundbreaking song, it’s lighter than much of The Weeknd’s music and serves as a refreshing track on the Starboy album. Overall, the song reached number four on the Billboard Hot 100.
Gasoline is the perfect example of how The Weeknd packages absolute despair with upbeat, new-wave pop to make it almost impossible to tell how dark the song is without critical analysis. It describes an unbalanced relationship, where the woman serves as his crutch for dealing with drug problems. Critically, the track was well-received, seeing enough radio play to reach number 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 and making it to the Top 10 in a few other countries.
10. Can’t Feel My Face
Can’t Feel My Face drew comparisons to Michael Jackson and was ranked as the best song of 2015 by Rolling Stone magazine. It topped both the US and Canadian Hot 100 and received two Grammy nominations for Best Pop Solo Performance and Record of the Year. It was hailed by critics and won several other awards, which turned out to produce an ironic twist in Reminder, talking about “I just won a new award for a kids show, Talkin’ ’bout a face numbin’ off a bag of blow.”
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11. High for This
Opening the House Of Balloons mixtape was this absolute gem of a song, telling you that you’ll enjoy this more if you’re high. This introduction to The Weeknd and his music is rather fitting for the hazy and despairing atmospheres that tend to be the basis for his music. It’s one of those sensory-pleasing tracks that sets him apart as an artist.
12. The Birds (Part 1)
Parts one and two of The Birds make it on here back to back because of the incredible craftsmanship shown between the two tracks. They highlight The Weeknd’s ability to tell a story, albeit with somewhat of a dark twist.
The Birds (Part 1) mostly serves as a plea from the singer to a woman for her to not fall in love with him. Eventually, she’ll get to the point of no return, and he isn’t able to give her what she wants, so it’s better for everyone involved if she doesn’t get to that point.
13. The Birds (Part 2)
Birds (Part 2) picks up right where part one left off, but there are some obvious changes. The woman didn’t heed his warning, and now, she’s running around shooting a gun.
The song’s gunshots, crow calls, and dark atmosphere paint a rather intimidating picture, one where it seems she has killed him for not reciprocating her feelings the right way. In The Weeknd’s long discography of hit tracks, this two-part story is his best example of storytelling and deserves to be a staple of his repertoire.
14. In the Night
Man, the music video for this song is nuts. Hot waitresses are being accosted by gangsters before the ladies just kill all of them and even drag bodies behind motorcycles. The track itself has been likened to Michael Jackson’s work, peaking at number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topping the US Rhythmic charts.
15. Earned It
Earned It was released as the lead single from the Fifty Shades Of Grey film soundtrack before being included on The Weeknd’s album Beauty Behind The Madness in 2015. It has the same explicit nature and BDSM theme as the movie and was accompanied by an almost-equally NSFW music video. The song peaked at number three on the Hot 100 but topped four other US charts. It also won the Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards and earned two other nominations.
16. House of Balloons / Glass Table Girls
One of The Weeknd’s first two-part songs, House of Balloons / Glass Table Girls describes a drug-crazed party that included some balloons to try and spice it up and make the party seem more celebratory instead of shitty. The Glass Table Girls part hones in on the actual type of drugs they were using at the party, which I’m sure you’ll be able to guess.
17. The Morning
The Morning takes on more of a reflective and introspective tone than some of his other songs. It deals with types of women that have begun entering his life as his music career has progressed, not particularly among the savory type. The high and pleasure from the night pass as the morning comes, the girl leaves, and he’s left alone to think about what his life has become.
18. Rolling Stone
The title Rolling Stone holds more than one reference. It alludes to the Bob Dylan song Like A Rolling Stone while also referring to smoking weed while rolling on ecstasy. It also represents The Weeknd’s evolution as an artist, progressing instead of staying stuck with his early sounds and themes and acknowledging the desire for growth. It’s more of a plea for fans to stick with him as his career goes on, following him on his journey.
19. Call Out My Name
There’s no proof of it, but Call Out My Name is allegedly all about his relationship with Selena Gomez in 2017. On its first day on Apple Music, it was streamed over six million times and debuted at number four on the Billboard Hot 100. The song samples Killing Time by Nicolas Jaar and has sold over 3,000,000 copies in the US alone.
Serving as the fourth single from Starboy, Reminder had a lot to live up to. It more than delivered, peaking at number 31 on the hot 100 and reaching the Top 10 on two US R&B charts before being certified triple platinum by the RIAA. A few months after it was released, a remix version came out that featured Young Thug and A$AP Rocky and again garnered critical acclaim.
21. Tell Your Friends
Tell Your Friends debuted live a few days before its official album release to rave reviews. It’s an open book on the Hollywood lifestyle of The Weeknd, featuring relationships with women, chasing fame, drugs, and self-destruction. In all honesty, it’s probably the quintessential song of the Beauty Behind The Madness album, a coalescing of the themes it discovers.
Often spent 20 weeks on the Hot 100, debuting at number 97 and peaking around number 59. It would go on to be certified triple-platinum by the RIAA in the US and gold in Canada. It served as the lead single from the Beauty Behind The Madness album and won Video of the Year at the 2015 Much Music Video Awards.
23. Twenty Eight
Even with the explicit material The Weeknd delves into, Twenty Eight is one of the few videos to be age-restricted on YouTube. While it didn’t chart incredibly well, it was certified platinum by the US RIAA.
24. Tears in The Rain
Tears In The Rain served as the final emotional lament of The Weeknd’s debut studio album, Kiss Land. According to him, the album was heavily influenced by the movie Blade Runner, this song potentially more than any other, since its title comes right from a scene in the movie.
25. Save Your Tears
“You could’ve told me that you fell apart, But you walked past me like I wasn’t there.” That line alone tells you the depth of emotion in this one, with the singer making himself the hero and villain at the same time. While seeming like a sympathetic character, he knows he’s at least partially at fault here, accounting for the normal duality of emotion in The Weeknd’s best songs.
26. Wasted Times
Not all of The Weeknd’s music deals with relationships in, let’s say, a mature way. Wasted Times is different though, one of the first times since House Of Balloons that he seems to take everything seriously and painfully regrets his actions in said relationship.
27. One Right Now
Anyone who heard The Weeknd and Post Malone was working on a collaboration was excited about it. Two of the biggest names in the industry teamed up to create One Right Now, a classic anthem track that showcases the skills of both while also coming at the song from a fresh angle.
28. What You Need
What You Need is one of The Weeknd’s most seductive and emotional songs, bringing more power to the table than you’d expect from a sexy R&B track. It’s the kind of song that has fans and critics alike labeling him as a generational artist.
29. Hardest to Love
The basslines of Hardest To Love sound more like a UK Top 40 hit than a US one, setting it apart from the rest of The Weeknd’s catalog of pop hits.
30. The Zone
Drake was one of the first artists to work with The Weeknd, handing him a guest appearance on his Take Care album that really helped put The Weeknd on the music-world map.
Jumping onto the Trilogy mixtape, Drake helps lay down a narrative of sleeping with one girl while wishing to be with another. It isn’t exactly a new trope, but it really helped express the vulnerability and openness of both artists and was the start of a long-term working relationship between the two of them.
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Heartless was one of the first releases that showcased The Weeknd’s After Hours album, bringing a chaotic energy that had been missing from earlier releases that would carry him onwards and upwards among fans and critics. “All this money and this pain” has left him relatively heartless, the central theme of the album.
32. Pray for Me
Pray For Me was produced for the Marvel film Black Panther and released on its soundtrack album in 2018 as the third and final single to come from the album. You can hear it in the movie when T’Challa, Nakia, and Okoye enter a secret casino in search of the bad guys.
33. Die for You
There are a lot of ways to tell someone you love them, but saying you would die for them is extra powerful. Die For You explored that as a theme while charting not once but twice. It originally peaked at number 43 on the Hot 100 before, but in 2022, it gained steam online once again thanks to TikTok and reached a new peak at the number 10 position.
34. How do I Make You Love Me?
How Do I Make You Love Me? was the point where The Weeknd entered the dance-pop scene and a sweltering single that questions what he would have had to do to make his relationship last. It was his second time working with the Swedish House Mafia, and the track that saw them continue to work together going forward.
35. After Hours
After Hours was the lead single off The Weeknd’s album by the same name, released in February 2020. It was used, at least in clips, for the short film based on the album that was also released with the deluxe version of it.
It starts in his signature style of recurring tones before exploding into a fast-paced dance number that became one of the best pop songs of the year. The track debuted at number 77 on the Billboard Hot 100 and made it up to number 20 shortly after.
Shameless stands out among the dance-pop majority of the Beauty Behind The Madness album thanks to its mostly acoustic instrumentation. It leans into the sleazy and cringey nature of the singer’s music, saying “I’ll always be there for you, girl I have no shame.” She’s not getting away any time soon it seems.
Sidewalks features some sick verse by Kendrick Lamar that even The Weeknd thought was special. Overall, the song delves into both of their path to fame and fortune and The Weeknd growing up while experiencing homelessness.
Faith takes on a somber tone as it glosses over the typical hedonism and debauchery expected of The Weeknd’s music. It does show vulnerability, as he opens up about drug addiction and compares losing faith in your religion to getting high.
39. Life of the Party
Have you thought of using drugs to entice someone into your bed? That’s mostly the theme of Life Of The Party, with The Weeknd offering cocaine and love to a woman to tempt her into getting to know him just a bit better.
Privilege is undoubtedly The Weeknd calling out Selena Gomez and their past relationship. Likening his addiction haze versus reality to the red and blue pills of The Matrix, he discusses how he copes with the end of the relationship and emotionally lashes out due to the pain it’s caused.
Another big hit from the Beauty Behind The Madness album, Acquainted was well-received thanks to the stunning vocals and catchy rhythms it brought to contemporary radio. It charted on the Hot 100 and peaked at number 60, but broke into the top 20 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay and Rhythmic charts.
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto website. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music pieces for Music Grotto.