Abel Tesfaye — better known as The Weeknd — might be the most popular artist in the world by the numbers, but he isn’t immune to criticism — and he certainly seems not to be ignoring it, at least when it comes to the pending release of his hotly anticipated HBO show The Idol. After Rolling Stone published an investigative piece in which the show’s troubled production was castigated by crew members and Abel himself was indirectly blamed for the show’s revamped, controversial direction, he responded by posting a scene from the show in which his character derides the magazine as “irrelevant.”
It looks like he isn’t done addressing the drama just yet, either. Speaking to playwright/filmmaker Jeremy O. Harris for Interview magazine, Tesfaye defended the show and his collaborator Sam Levinson (of Euphoria fame/infamy), arguing that “you can’t please everybody” and blaming the show’s preemptive reception on hurtful rumors.
That’s what I’m learning about the film business, is that when people start rumors, it really does hurt a lot of other people,A lot of people work hard on these projects. When I’m in my world, and you guys are coming at me, it’s like, alright, cool. I’m a big boy. I can figure it out. But you have 200 people working hard on a project like this, that hurts. Especially when what they’re saying is far from the truth, but, what can you do?
While he didn’t quite get into what parts weren’t true or why, he did explain that his “thick skin” helps him to deal with the critics.
I’m used to it more than someone like Sam, who’s probably a little bit used to it now. And I’m sure Lily, definitely—Lily’s stronger than both of us. But I’ve been judged since the beginning. My stuff’s always kind of been provocative. I understand it’s hard for people to separate that sometimes and that some people want to have an opinion about you, even if it’s not true. As an artist, you have to know that you can’t please everybody, and you have to accept that it comes with the job. You have to remind yourself that everybody that knows you, knows you’re a good person. If you’re going out there trying to prove to people you’re a good person all the time, then it becomes like a dead end. But what I’ve learned is, with time people will learn to understand. But I have thick skin. I’m used to it.
The Idol is scheduled to premiere out-of-competition at the Cannes Film Festival in May, so perhaps the show really is finished after all — and we’ll start to get some sense of what its “real world” reception will actually be.