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Q&A: Former Universal boss proud of the Weeknd’s chart topping success


By Nick Patch

THE CANADIAN PRESS

the weekend

TORONTO _ Abel Tesfaye had quite the Labour Day weekend.

The Toronto alt-R&B sadster’s pop-leaning “Beauty Behind the Madness” was certified as the No. 1 album in North America by Billboard on Sunday.

With Nielsen Music reporting 412,000 records sold, “Beauty Behind the Madness” had the second-best first week sales of 2015, trailing only “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” by compatriot Drake.

Former Universal Music Canada president and CEO Randy Lennox signed Tesfaye to a record deal almost exactly three years ago, when he had already built a devoted following with three pitch-black mixtapes that formed the most depressing trilogy this side of Lars von Trier.

Lennox, now president of entertainment production and broadcasting at Bell Media, recently talked to The Canadian Press about Tesfaye’s pop ascent.

CP: Do you remember the first time you heard Abel?

Lennox: He had a mixtape out called “House of Balloons” that absolutely was magnificent. His manager, Tony Sal, and I had been chatting about my admiration for Abel. And the U.S. labels were all coming up here.

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CP: What did you make of Abel on a personal level?

Lennox: He is incredibly bright. Authentically shy _ that is real. And even his personality now, as he breaks, he’s still a very, very humble young man. Not overwhelmed, incidentally. Just riding this and having the time of his life.

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CP: Did you foresee how much mainstream potential he’d have?

Lennox: It was always about the music. He just has good taste. His sense of melody, his stunning voice, and his cool look is a triple threat.

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CP: For a long time he refused to do interviews, and some of us viewed that as a tactic to cultivate mystery. What did you make of it?

Lennox: It was entirely his vision. His vision was: “Let my music speak for me. They can get to know me later.”

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CP: In discussing his pop makeover, he recently pointed out that this generation lacks a Prince or Michael Jackson. How do you view his potential?

Lennox: He is unique. And I believe he can be a combination of those incredibly revered artists.

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