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The Weeknd on His “Feud” With Usher Over the 2012 Song, Climax
The Weeknd is the kind of celebrity who likes to fly under the radar, so when the possibility emerged earlier this year that he was locked in a feud with R&B superstar Usher, it became big news, and even inspired a social media challenge. But Esquire snagged an interview with the famously press-shy popstar for our September/October issue, and The Weeknd, whose real name is Abel Tesfaye, set the record straight.
The spat kicked off with an interview Tesfaye gave to Variety in April to promote his fourth album, After Hours. In discussing the influence of his early-career sound, he told the magazine that after hearing Usher’s 2012 single “Climax,” he thought, “‘Holy fuck, that’s a Weeknd song.’”
“It was very flattering, and I knew I was doing something right,” Tesfaye told Variety, “but I also got angry. But the older I got, I realized it’s a good thing.”
Usher didn’t respond directly, but he posted a video to Instagram just a couple days later in which he sang “Climax” a cappella. Singer-songwriter and Usher collaborator Eric Bellinger then took to social media with his own solo cover, tagging it the #ClimaxChallenge and low-key suggesting that Tesfaye doesn’t posses the vocal chops to sing the tune.
Diplo, who co-wrote and produced the contentious tune, seemingly settled any brewing beef when he took to Twitter to acknowledge Tesfaye’s influence on the record. “The production on Climax lends itself to House of Balloons era The Weeknd,” he tweeted. “The idea of R&B having dark edges was what I wanted to bring to Usher, one of my favorite voices of all time.”
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Not all the “Climax” collaborators were on board, however. One of the song’s co-writers, Ariel Rechtshaid, responded to Diplo in his own tweet, which read: “I tweet this with the utmost respect to all parties involved. Climax was inspired in the room without any subconscious or conscious outside influence.”
Isn’t the whole point of a subconscious influence that you wouldn’t be aware that it’s happening? Anyway, Tesfaye accepted Diplo’s olive branch. “Of course media blows things out of proportion and takes things out of context,” he tweeted in response. “Usher is a King and always an inspiration so it was flattering to hear what him and Diplo did on climax.
In his new Esquire interview, Tesfaye cleared things up further, and said that reports of a feud were overblown. “I hit [Usher] up to apologize and tell him that it was misconstrued,” he said. “He’s one of the reasons why I make music. Definitely. No, no, I have nothing bad to say about Usher. The sweetest, most down-to-earth guy ever.”
Gabrielle Bruney is a writer and editor for Esquire, where she focuses on politics and culture.
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