“What are you talking about?” asks the man in the pinstriped suit. “About me?”
The conversation in question is, in fact, about a nearby Los Angeles recording studio. But much as the sun will rise in the east and set in the west and all roads lead to Rome, so too do all discussions among this group ultimately return to the man in the pinstripes. “Hi,” he says, reaching for a handshake. “I’m Abel.”
Abel is Abel Tesfaye, a quiet charmer who makes small talk about his holiday plans, remembers my name and apologizes when, just once, he interrupts while I’m talking. Abel Tesfaye is also, of course, The Weeknd — the sometimes-brooding, always-intriguing, silk-voiced underground R&B golden child turned pop prince.
In the suit, a fur-collared overcoat and diamond stud earrings for today’s photo shoot, he certainly looks the part — albeit one very different from the role he’s played with the dedication of a method actor over the past year. In music videos, late-night appearances and awards show performances for his blockbuster album After Hours, Tesfaye appeared with a mangled face and wore a blood red jacket — a charismatic sociopath inhabiting an eerie horror movie world equal parts Halloween and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.