Tag: “Fifty Shades of Grey”

NYT MUSIC FEATURE: Can the Weeknd Turn Himself Into the Biggest Pop Star in the World?

02weeknd1-superJumbo
The Weeknd (Photo Credit: Peter van Agtmael/Magnum, The New York Times)

The scene backstage last November at the American Music Awards, that annual gathering of pop perennials and idiosyncratic arrivistes, was carnivalesque: Niall and Liam of One Direction toddled about trying to snap a picture with a selfie stick, while Zayn, their bandmate at the time, smoked coolly out of frame; Ne-Yo was there in a leopard-­print blazer two sizes too small; Lil Wayne was wandering around, alone, wearing absurd shoes. In the middle of it all, Abel Tesfaye, better known as The Weeknd, remained calm, slow ­motion to everyone else’s warp speed.

Allergic to these sorts of scrums, he found his way to his trailer to hang with his friends, five or so fellow Canadians, all of them art-goth chic, wearing expensive sneakers and draped in luxurious, flowing black. Tesfaye, 25, was dressed down by comparison, in a black corduroy jacket and paint-­splattered jeans (Versace, but still). He stands 5-foot-7, plus a few more inches with his hair, an elaborate tangle of dreadlocks that he has been growing out for years, more or less letting it go where it wants. It spills out at the sides of his head and shoots up over it, like a cresting wave. Casually, Tesfaye did some vocal warm-ups and sat indifferently as his underutilized makeup artist dabbed foundation under his eyes and balm on his lips.

Abel Tesfaye, a.k.a. the Weeknd, at his apartment building in Toronto last December. (Credit: Peter van Agtmael/Magnum, for The New York Times)

He’d just had his first flash of true pop success: ‘‘Love Me Harder,’’ his duet with Ariana Grande, the childlike pop star with the grown-up voice, cracked the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. He was scheduled to make a surprise cameo here at the end of a Grande medley. Until that song and, in a sense, that moment, Tesfaye had been a no-hit wonder: a cult act with millions of devotees and almost no mainstream profile.

When Tesfaye came out from the shadows midway through Grande’s performance, the crowd screamed. For two minutes, the singers traded vocal riffs and unflinching eye contact, Grande playing the naïf and Tesfaye the aggressor. The performance was quick and sweaty, and seconds after it was over, Tesfaye was already speeding for the exit, stopping only for a quick embrace from Kendall and Kylie Jenner. When he reached the parking lot, a yappy talent wrangler for an entertainment-­news show sensed an opportunity and asked for an interview. Tesfaye gave him an amused half-smile and kept walking. ‘‘Hey!’’ the guy shouted in desperation, fumbling for a name before landing on the wrong one: ‘‘A$AP Rocky!’’ Tesfaye turned his head and said, ‘‘C’mon, man,’’ arching an eyebrow, then picked up the pace.

Even though he had just performed for an audience of millions, Tesfaye was still, to many of them, a total stranger. When he began releasing music in 2010 — murky Dalí-esque R.&B., sung in an astrally sweet voice, vivid with details of life at the sexual and pharmacological extremes — Tesfaye chose to be a cipher. The only photos of him in circulation were deliberately obscured; he didn’t do interviews. His reticence was an asset — fans devoured the music without being distracted by a personality. Their loyalty was to the songs and, in a way, to the idea of the Weeknd. He was happy to stay out of the way.

Continue reading “NYT MUSIC FEATURE: Can the Weeknd Turn Himself Into the Biggest Pop Star in the World?”

Author Zane: The Hardest-Working Woman in Adult Fiction

Author Zane
Author Zane attends the panel discussion during the TV One presentation at the 2005 Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 17, 2005 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

James Brown may forever be known as the hardest working man in show business; but, when it comes to bestselling authors, the intrepid business woman behind the nom de plume Zane might very well be the hardest working woman in erotic fiction.

With her newest title, Busy Bodies (an anthology of steamy short stories) set for release on July 16, two seasons of the Cinemax series Zane’s Sex Chronicles under her belt, and the Lionsgate adaptation of her second novel Addicted wrapped and awaiting a premiere date, you might wonder when Zane sleeps!

Between work on her formidable list of upcoming projects, theGrio caught up with the plucky author, whose faithful following of readers has landed her on the New York Times bestseller list an astounding 26 times.

Zane shared her personal recipe for success, advice for young, black writers and her top tips for entrepreneurs.

How a research assistant became “Zane”

You might be surprised to learn the mega-author (who assumed her pseudonym when she was a part-time research assistant for her theologian father) got her start sharing a few short stories on AOL chat rooms.

“I had always loved books and had a very vivid imagination as a child, but as far as becoming ‘Zane,’ that wasn’t until November 1997,” Zane told theGrio. “I wrote a short story and shared it with a few people I’d met online. I self-published three more stories online and got about 8,000 hits by word of mouth alone.”  Over the next three years, Zane’s popularity grew online and she was contacted by several major publishers, offering book deals she ultimately turned down.

Continue reading “Author Zane: The Hardest-Working Woman in Adult Fiction”