‘Die For You’: The Story Behind The Weeknd’s Euphoric Ballad

Above all, ‘Die For You’ symbolizes Tesfaye’s staying power in American pop.

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The Weeknd - Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images for iHeartMedia
The Weeknd - Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images for iHeartMedia

As the Weeknd’s music steadily progressed from back bedrooms to arena stages over the course of a decade, its scope expanded even further thanks to the maximalist disco of his third studio record, 2016’s Starboy. With assists from marquee electronic producers like Daft Punk, Benny Blanco, Diplo, and Cashmere Cat, Starboy took the insights of 2015’s Beauty Behind the Madness – which featured the Weeknd’s first No.1, “I Can’t Feel My Face” – and smoothed out that record’s serrated edges, making for bright, pointed pop. “Die For You” was one of seven singles off of Starboy, but its journey to the charts was a strange one and took years to unfold.

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“Die For You” was reportedly one of the last – if not the last – song to be finished for Starboy, making it an unlikely choice for a leading single. (Many insiders suspect the single was challenging to complete, given the emotional turmoil in Tesfaye’s life at the time – more on that in a bit.) Tesfaye’s camp pushed the song to rhythmic contemporary radio, before declining to submit it to pop radio for unknown reasons, therefore “Die For You” had a slow start on the Billboard chart, peaking at No.43 in 2017, a year after the Weeknd initially released Starboy.

The Weeknd - Die For You (Official Music Video)

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Five years passed, and the single eventually found a new life on TikTok, where it seemed tailor-made for the platform. The construction of “Die For You” closely follows an emotional buildup, verses, and hooks, all barrelling to an explosive conclusion: “Just know that I would die for you!” Tesfaye belts.

“Die For You” brims over with emotionally charged moments, whether it’s the pre-chorus cry of “Hate that you want me, hate that you cry” or the “Keep it real, I would kill for you!” of the bridge. These moments serve as representative snapshots of the Weeknd’s signature tone – party-weary, drug-addled pleas, desperate for meaningful connection, and willing to reach deep into the psyche. Naturally, these snippets became perfect soundtracks for short-form dramas on TikTok or parodies of those situations.

The single saw a resurgence after the Weeknd re-released “Die For You” to mark the fifth anniversary of Starboy, along with a new music video that paid direct homage to E.T. and Stranger Things. The song surged higher on the chart than it did in 2017, peaking at No. 33.

“Die For You” also carries the sheen of tabloid subject matter, given that the song was recorded in the direct aftermath of Tesfaye’s temporary breakup with Gen Z style icon Bella Hadid. “Die For You” is not exactly the first time Hadid has served as Tesfaye’s muse; fans suspect that songs like “After Hours” and “Here We Go… Again” contain direct references to their off-again, on-again relationship. This aspect gives “Die For You” an added layer of intrigue and a dynamic that can be easily channeled by social media expression.

Above all, “Die For You” symbolizes Tesfaye’s staying power in American pop. Once a singer who specialized in dark moods and subdued production, he took over the reins of his own fame and has increasingly pushed his sound into new sonic textures, combining the production prowess of Max Martin and Oneohtrix Point Never’s Daniel Lopatin – an unlikely duo on paper – to create a new musical framework for his persona. It makes sense that his fans would revisit previous eras, tracing the singer’s approach as he rose in stature throughout the early 2020s.

Boiled down, “Die For You” paints an emotional portrait that has resonated in modern American pop culture. While its renewed success feels surprising, in some ways, when you look closer, its resurgence in the current American mood could not make more sense.

Listen to “Die For You.”

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. DubstepHero777 DH777

    February 25, 2023 at 8:38 pm

    This song is a remake from the 70’s
    I can’t find the original though.

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