Updated April 9, 2020: Shortly after The Weeknd's suspicions of Usher biting his sound hit the internet, they sparked a serious conversation about music. Chiming in now is fellow R&B singer-songwriter Eric Bellinger with an interesting take. Bellinger started what he's calling the #ClimaxChallenge, proposing that The Weeknd try his hand at belting out the markedly difficult falsetto of the 2012 hit that was supposedly "copied" from him. It was a good opportunity for the criminally underrated artist to show off his chops, too; Bellinger provided his own pitch-perfect rendition of "Climax" on his Instagram and tagged The Weeknd, captioning the post "for the love of R&B music."
Usher couldn't help but to join in o the fun. The 41-year-old uploaded his own #ClimaxChallenge — which he filmed laying down. He hasn't spoken directly about The Weeknd's claims, but in conversation with Zane Lowe on Apple Music’s Beats 1, Usher said that "Climax" was the perfect marriage of EDM and R&B, two genres that he's explored throughout his career.
"Me and Diplo, we were trying to do something that would raise the bar for R&B," Usher told Lowe. "Yeah, I made R&B hit records before and, yeah, Diplo, he could do many things. But I said, ‘Is there any way to tie these two worlds together?’"
He admitted being nervous about releasing such a different sound — EDM tracks usually don't include falsetto — but the unique take paid off, and "Climax" became Usher's twelfth No. 1 single on the Billboard R&B/Hip Hop charts. Now copy that, Abel.
This article was originally published on April 8, 2020.
Four years after the release of his last project Starboy, the Weeknd is finally bringing back the sad boy vibes with brand new album After Hours. But with the new music comes new drama, and no, it has nothing to do with his love life this time. It’s Usher, of all people, that the singer has a bone to pick with.
Two weeks after the debut of After Hours, The Weeknd (Abel Makkonen Tesfaye) opened up about the highs and lows of his ten-year career in conversation with Variety. Approaching the second decade of his career as a singer, the Weeknd is very nostalgic. The new project is reminiscent of the dark sounds of his earliest works, a throwback to the standout moody vibes of his early mixtapes. Those sounds, he told Variety, were jacked by some of his fellow musicians — Usher, namely.
"House of Balloons literally changed the sound of pop music before my eyes," The Weeknd explained. "I heard 'Climax,' that  Usher song, and was like, ‘Holy fuck, that’s a Weeknd song.’"
"It was very flattering, and I knew I was doing something right, but I also got angry" the singer added. "But the older I got, I realized it’s a good thing.”
Jem Aswad, who interviewed the singer for the feature, agreed, pointing out that The Weeknd's debut mixtape may have set the tune for many a sad boy to come after him. She may have a point — artists like PARTYNEXTDOOR, Sampha, and 6lack now have a niche. But the Internet, specifically the R&B community, is not having it.
Several Twitter accounts pointed out that The Weeknd's vocals are clearly inspired by the musical stylings of Michael Jackson, marked by a nasally falsetto. Usher was also inspired by the King of Pop, but MJ's influence shows up more so in the Atlanta superstar's penchant for dancing than in his singing. That could be where The Weeknd is seeing a convergence between his discography and that of someone who's been in the game for 20 years longer than he has.
Whether delusions of grandeur or a valid point (personally, I'm thinking the former — Usher has been making music since 1994), I feel like we can put this to rest with a very simple solution: an Instagram live battle between the R&B singers. After 20 songs from each of their catalogues will prove whose got the right sound. Someone get Timbaland and Swizz Beats on the phone!