The Weeknd is one of the most successful artists of the 2010s. He has earned three Grammy awards, three number one albums, and five number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100. With hits like “Earned It” and “Can’t Feel My Face,” The Weeknd’s often regarded as “one of the most successful and significant artists” of the new millennium (per Republic Records) thanks to his influence on the next generation of R&B.
Likewise, Usher has had a similar impact on the industry. Since his debut in 1994, Usher has earned eight Grammy awards, four number one albums, and nine number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100. However, Usher’s penchant for “disruptive innovation” extends far beyond the music world, as he launched a non-profit organization dedicated to “transform[ing] the lives of underserved youth by developing passion-driven, global leaders” (per The Atlanta Business Chronicle). It’s obvious that there’s certainly some overlap between both The Weeknd and Usher’s positions within the music industry.
Although The Weeknd’s debut was incredibly influential, no one would accuse Usher of copying him, mostly because the “U Remind Me” singer came to fame nearly two decades before The Weeknd appeared on the scene. However, that’s exactly what happened when The Weeknd highlighted the similarities between Usher’s Grammy-winning song “Climax” and his own body of work.
The Weeknd made a bold claim about Usher's 'Climax'
In early 2012, Usher released his song “Climax” to critical acclaim. The song was touted as one of the year’s best and went on to win the Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance. Not everyone was a fan of the quiet storm jam, however. In April 2020, while promoting his album After Hours, The Weeknd confessed to Variety that he noticed similarities between the song and material on House Of Balloons, his debut mixtape.
“I heard ‘Climax,'” he said, “and was like ‘Holy f**k, that’s a Weeknd song.'” The artist had mixed feelings about the similarities. “It was very flattering, and I knew I was doing something right,” the Weeknd admitted, “But I also got angry.”
The resemblance between the music was not only in The Weeknd’s head, either. Diplo, the producer of “Climax,” tweeted that “[t]he production on ‘Climax’ lends itself to ‘House Of Balloons’ era,” admitting that the then-newcomer’s work directly influenced his collaboration with Usher. Diplo also offered praise for The Weeknd’s work. “When I heard those early records they blew my mind…” the producer continued. “The idea of R&B having dark edges was what I wanted to bring to [Usher].”
Usher threw some shade at The Weeknd
Although Usher never directly responded to The Weeknd’s comments in the Variety interview, he did amplify a bit of passive-aggression on the internet. Eric Bellinger, R&B singer and frequent Usher collaborator, countered The Weeknd’s claim on Instagram with the #ClimaxChallenge, in which Bellinger encouraged others to sing the chorus of “Climax.” While subtle, Bellinger’s challenge implied that The Weeknd would not be able to hit the high falsetto notes in the song’s chorus the way that Usher could. Usher then posted a video on Instagram Stories (per Eric Bellinger) of him singing the chorus to his own song — another implicit challenge to The Weeknd.
Several Twitter users were also quick to call out what they viewed as hypocrisy on the Weeknd’s part. One observant user tweeted, “The Weeknd out here doing Michael Jackson and The Dream impressions on every song talking about Usher took his sound on Climax.” It is true that Usher and The Weeknd have both been influenced by and compared to — whether in voice or performance — the late Michael Jackson, and this overlap only goes to show that, beyond “Climax,” Usher and The Weeknd consistently present listeners with a similar vibe.
The Weeknd and Usher put their feud behind them… sort of
After all the “Climax” hoopla, The Weeknd ultimately walked back some of his previous comments. In response to Diplo’s tweet acknowledging House Of Balloons‘ influence on the track, The Weeknd tweeted, “Of course the media blows things out of proportion and takes things out of context.” The singer then took an opportunity to praise Usher, confessing, “Usher is a king and always an inspiration so it was flattering to hear what him and Diplo did on [C]limax.” The Weeknd also told Variety that, although he was angry over the similarities at first, with time, he “realized it’s a good thing.”
While The Weeknd clearly just wanted to put the incident behind him, Usher offered his own cryptic response shortly after The Weeknd shared his final take on the matter. “Have you ever seen the moon bark back at the dog?” Usher tweeted. If Usher is the moon, that must mean he was having a lot of fun watching everyone else “bark” about what he does or doesn’t think. But, when you live your life in the spotlight, people are bound to talk. As for Usher? Cryptic tweets will do just fine.
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