The Weeknd on Writing About Sex and Calling Women ‘Bitches’ in His Songs

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The Weeknd on Writing About Sex and Calling Women ‘Bitches’ in His Songs

The Weeknd (real name: Abel Tesfaye), our September cover star, is widely known as the modern king of music about sex, which means that it’s perhaps more incumbent on him than most to investigate his use of gendered language: namely, the word “bitch,” which for years has been an albatross around the neck of popular music.

In “The Hills,” for example, Tesfaye sings, “I just fucked two bitches ‘fore I saw you.” Then there’s “Heartless,” where the first verse opens with “Never need a bitch, I’m what a bitch need.” And these aren’t Tesfaye’s only songs featuring the word “bitch,” yet he has thought long and hard about the word, insisting that it comes from a persona and not from his heart of hearts.

“It’s definitely a character,” Tesfaye said. “When you hear some of the drastic stuff, you can tell. I mean, that’s why it’s tricky, because it is me singing the words; it is my writing. It’s like you want people to feel a certain way. You want them to feel angry. You want them to feel sad. You want them to feel. It’s never, like, my intent to offend anybody.”

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Tesfaye’s attitude about playing a character speaks to his winky acknowledgement that fans expect a certain persona from him—one mired in sex and seduction. In our September cover story, Allison P. Davis describes Tesfaye as a poet of “millennial sexual discontent,” speaking to millions of young adults about the ups and downs of young love. When you next dissect his lyrics, looking for Easter Eggs about his personal life, don’t spend too much time on his use of the word “bitch”—we know now that there’s not much mystery to be uncovered.

Assistant Editor
Adrienne Westenfeld is a writer and editor at Esquire, where she covers books and culture.

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