Song Review: Blinding Lights
You may be surprised to learn that The Weeknd isn’t a band, but rather the stage name of Canadian singer-songwriter Abel Tesfaye.
On March 20, Tesfaye released his fourth album, After Hours, which had three singles: “Heartless,” “Blinding Lights,” and “In Your Eyes.” After being released as a single on November 27, “Heartless” climbed to the top of the US Billboard Hot100. Two days later, Tesfaye released his second single from the album, “Blinding Lights.” “Heartless” did well; “Blinding Lights” shattered all expectations. It hit number one on the charts in thirty-two different countries and became The Weeknd’s most successful single to date.
Though After Hours was inspired by classic 90’s films like Casino (1995) and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), “Blinding Lights” and “Heartless” take different positions on Tesfaye’s past and current relationships. In “Heartless,” Tesfaye sings, “Never need a b**ch, I’m what a b**ch needs / Trying to find the one that can fix me.” Amanda Mitchell of The Oprah Magazine theorizes that Tesfaye is referring to his relationship with Selena Gomez that ended in October 2017 after nine months of dating.
In “Blinding Lights,” Tesfaye uses a different tone. He seems to imply he’s metaphorically lost without his current girlfriend, Bella Hadid, with the lyrics "I look around and / Sin City's cold and empty (Oh) / No one's around to judge me (Oh) / I can't see clearly when you're gone."
Historically, when the United States hits a period of economic downturn, people turn towards upbeat dance music with lyrics that address the hard times. When the oil crisis hit in 1979 and inflation was at an all-time high, Chic’s legendary dance hit “Good Times,” which was an upbeat song with lyrics about the plight of living in modern day America, skyrocketed to the top of the charts. Today, in this time of isolation and financial uncertainty, it’s no surprise that the nation has turned towards a song with a good beat but lyrics about being alone. “Blinding Lights” leads off with “I’ve been on my own for long enough,” a sentiment that many Americans share.