Music

Five Burning Questions: The Weeknd’s ‘Die for You,’ No


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It’s proven a successful formula before: The Weeknd scores a top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hit, and just when it looks to have climbed about as far as it’s likely to get, it receives a new remix starring his “Love Me Harder” co-star Ariana Grande to give it another blast of momentum.

In the case of The Weeknd‘s After Hours single “Save Your Tears,” that blast took it all the way to No. 1 on the Hot 100 in spring 2021. Now, he and Grande look to repeat their trick with “Die for You,” the artist born Abel Tesfaye’s old Starboy cut that was revitalized on TikTok and streaming and eventually radio, becoming a Hot 100 hit in late 2022. Early this year, the song climbed as high as No. 6 on the chart — where it returns to this week — and it’s likely to get a considerable boost in consumption from the new remix.

Will it be enough to get the song to No. 1? And what other pop co-stars might look to follow Grande and Tesfaye’s lead? Billboard staffers discuss these questions and more below.

1. Despite being over six years old, “Die for You” has stood for two months now as one of the biggest hits of the new year, climbing back to its No. 6 peak this week. Why do you think the song has the song been able to maintain its popularity — not just several months into its current chart run, but over a half-decade since its original release?  

Rania Aniftos: As always with a song that’s getting a second life, we can thank TikTok. The Weeknd’s unearthed songs usually take off, because Abel really never misses. As a fan myself, I love being reminded of and revisiting some of his older songs, so I’m always happy when a track makes its way back to TikTok. 

Stephen Daw: I’ve said it before, and I will say it again — never underestimate TikTok. Beyond just saying a song “is big on TikTok right now,” it’s clear that the app has become a place where even a decades-old gem can become a huge hit. “Die for You” has always had a reputation amongst The Weeknd fans as one of the best deeper cuts off Starboy — now that they have a place to focus that love and attention for their underrated fave, everyone suddenly gets to be in on it together.

Jason Lipshutz: At some point over the past few weeks, “Die for You” fully transitioned from “fan favorite album track that has garnered a surprising amount of TikTok commotion” to “one of The Weeknd’s biggest choruses to date that somehow didn’t explode upon its original release.” Hearing “Die for You” on a major streaming playlist or on top 40 radio today, it sounds just as immediate and undeniable as “Blinding Lights” and “Save Your Tears” did two years ago — especially impressive considering how dated a lot of pop songs can sound a few years after they’re unveiled. Fans might have gotten the ball rolling here, but the timeless feel of “Die for You” helped sustain it.

Heran Mamo: There’s a couple of factors here: 1) TikTok’s superpower of reviving years-old deep cuts and transforming them into today’s hits, especially for new listeners; 2) The Weeknd’s performance of “Die for You” during his After Hours Til Dawn Stadium Tour refreshing his die-hard fans’ memories of one of his best songs to date; and 3) top 40 programmers’ strategy of satisfying his fans (after coming up short on a “Blinding Lights”-sized hit from latest album Dawn FM) and capitalizing on the recent “Die” revival. I also feel like The Weeknd’s really struck listeners’ nostalgic nerve right now, with his contribution to Metro Boomin’s “Creepin” (which partially covers Mario Winans’ 2004 track “I Don’t Wanna Know”) also remaining in the top 10 of the Hot 100 for the last two months. Dusting off not just one but two old songs and turning them into modern day smashes is very impressive, and I don’t know how many other artists would be able to pull that off. 

Andrew Unterberger: It’s just kinda what The Weeknd does. “Die for You” proved a better fit for streaming and radio than anything off Dawn FM — and historically speaking, once one of his singles reaches a certain level of popularity, it’s tougher to get rid off than bedbugs. That probably would’ve been true of “Die” even without any high-profile remixes.

2. On Friday, the song’s Ariana Grande-featuring remix was released to much fanfare, marking the fourth time the two pop superstars have collaborated on a song. Why do you think their artistic partnership continues seems to make such an impact each time out?  

Rania Aniftos: Their relationship is so authentic, and fans see that. They’re genuinely friends, and because of that, it doesn’t just feel like some cash-grab collaboration between two huge celebrities. You can tell from how incredible every single one of their collabs are that they actually want to make the best music possible together, and it works. Of course, their combined mega-star power doesn’t hurt.  

Stephen Daw: Ari and Abel share one thing that makes them both stand out from many of their other peers: unique, singular voices. When you put them together, it feels like two perfectly fitted puzzle pieces that complete a greater picture. There’s simply no denying that they both sound phenomenal bouncing off of one another, so it makes sense that every time they collaborate, fans eat it up and ask them when they’re going to get more.

Jason Lipshutz: Abel and Ariana have a shared rhythmic-pop sensibility that allows them to approach tracks in a similar way and sound great together on the finished product. Over the past decade, both artists have enveloped themselves in R&B textures while placing high value on radio-friendly pop hooks; they often sing about love with a tinge of darkness, as if even the most romantic of scenarios contain jabs of pain mixed in with the shots of pleasure. A song like “Die for You” makes for the perfect vehicle for both talents — pillowy in parts and epic in others, the track conveys devotion through ultimate sacrifice, and meets a complicated relationship with nuanced, spectacular vocal runs.

Heran Mamo: It goes without saying that they’re two of the biggest pop stars in the world, so putting them together on one song is bound to make noise. But specifically, The Weeknd’s awe-inspiring falsetto and Ariana’s incredible upper register and piercing whistle tones always come together for the most heavenly songs that literally make you feel like you’re in the clouds. Talk about pop perfection!  

Andrew Unterberger: It’s a great fit of pop voices and personas: two pop&B superstars who excel at illustrating dizzying highs and terrifying lows, who are very purposeful in the evolution of their artistry, and who always come with skyscraping and unmistakable vocals.

3. The last time Grande and Tesfaye teamed up was in a similar spot in spring 2021 — with The Weeknd’s “Save Your Tears” still hanging around the top 10, but likely without the commercial momentum to continue climbing much higher on its own. That collab helped “Tears” immediately shoot to No. 1, and helped it become a big- and long-lasting-enough hit to still be going in 2022. Do you see the “Die for You” having a similar-sized effect, in either the short or long terms?  

Rania Aniftos: Yes, but only because Ariana Grande hasn’t put out music in a while, as she’s been busy with other endeavors like her beauty line and her role in the Wicked film. We know that her fans are dying to hear from her and support her in any musical capacity – which is more than enough to blast “Die for You” into a long-lasting hit. 

Stephen Daw: Simply put, yes. I try not to make Big Predictions™ that often, but with “Die for You” already climbing back to No. 6 after just the anticipation of a new Ariana collab, it feels like there is very little that could stop it from taking the No. 1 spot in next week’s chart. Sure, they’re pulling the same play that they did with “Save Your Tears” — but if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

Jason Lipshutz: Yeah, I think this gets to No. 1. The top of the Hot 100 has become a crowded spot lately, with mega-hits by Miley Cyrus and SZA joined by songs by PinkPantheress & Ice Spice and Morgan Wallen quickly becoming ubiquitous… but The Weeknd and Ariana Grande are A-list artists with sprawling fan bases, tons of radio buy-in and indisputable chemistry. Sure, the “Die for You” remix is a canny attempt to get a top 10 song into pole position on the Hot 100, but that doesn’t mean that the collaboration doesn’t work. As a pop product, the “Die for You” remix fires on all cylinders, and should become huge in the coming weeks.

Heran Mamo: Absolutely. If the six-year-old, solo version can launch to and then stay in the top 10 of the Hot 100 for two months, then the Ariana Grande remix can definitely help maintain that momentum and eventually reach the chart’s top spot. Let’s not forget that this is Ariana’s first major musical release in two years, so her fans will be eating this up. And depending on when she’ll release music again, given her busy film schedule with Wicked, the “Die for You” remix might have to tide the Arianators over for a while. The Abel-Ariana link-up is a tried-and-true formula for a smash that’s sure to work its magic once more.  

Andrew Unterberger: Definitely in the short term — based on the remix’s excellent early showing on DSPs and on iTunes, it should help the song score a big chart jump this week, possibly all the way to No. 1. For the long-term, we’ll have to wait and see which version listeners continue to gravitate towards — but with the “Tears” precedent and with the remix still in the daily top 10 on Spotify and Apple Music halfway through the week, I’d probably put my money on it being the enduring version of the song as well.

4. Do you see the addition of Grande’s contributions to “Die for You” as either a major improvement or expansion of the song, or is interest in the new remix mostly just fan excitement about the two pop greats being together again?  

Rania Aniftos: I thought the song was great on its own, but I’ve always loved how Ari’s voice sounds with Abel’s because it just amplifies their ethereal, atmospheric musical tastes. So even though the remix might not make the biggest difference or improvement, everything they make together is a fun listen and so, so catchy that nobody’s ever mad at it. I’m certainly not. 

Stephen Daw: I think the remix is a great song that was already great before Ariana hopped on it. Her addition is certainly welcome, especially when you see the clip of her comping her own vocal takes to make sure all of her stacked harmonies were perfect. All of that being said, no, this is not a major revitalization of the song — it’s a fun remix with two artists who work well together that gets people listening to the song even more than they already were.

Jason Lipshutz: Ariana Grande joining “Die for You” turns the song into a conversation: after The Weeknd sings, “You know what I’m thinkin’, see it in your eyes/ You hate that you want me, hate it when you cry,” Grande sings the words right back at him in the next verse, as if both parties in the relationship are guilty of being addicted to an unhappy union. Hearing Grande’s voice throughout the remix applies another familiar voice to a major hook, but the real power is in the emotional layers that she adds to the track.

Heran Mamo: I’d say the latter, considering the original “Die for You” is so strong on its own – with a gut-wrenching chorus, scintillating production and The Weeknd’s swoon-worthy, signature falsetto – that it didn’t need a remix. The undeniable vocal chemistry between Abel and Ariana certainly strengthens “Die for You,” but the buzz behind its remix, which started in November when SZA confirmed a rumor she had already recorded one before The Weeknd eventually announced Ariana as his collaborator, has kept fans on their toes for a while.  

Andrew Unterberger: The fan excitement was guaranteed to give it a strong push out of the gate, but I think the listeners will stick around in large part because the remix simply works — it just feels a little fuller, a little higher-stakes than the original. It’s not an enormous difference, but it might be enough to take the song from a fun surprise breakout for The Weeknd to a true signature hit.

5. What other A-list collaborators who’ve only worked together once or twice would you like to see growing into a Weeknd/Ariana Grande type relationship, where they come together for a new song or remix every couple years and see blockbuster results seemingly each time out?  

Rania Aniftos: I apologize in advance, because this isn’t exactly what’s being asked here, but it must be said: Harry Styles and Taylor Swift need to have this type of collaborative relationship. Their romance-turned-friendship is so sweet and everywhere in the news when they see each other at events. Could you imagine the frenzy if Harry did a remix of Taylor’s “Style”?

Stephen Daw: Doja Cat & SZA, all day, every day. “Kiss Me More” was such a phenomenal outing for both of them because it felt like when they came together, they were bringing out different sides of each other — SZA had permission to be sillier, while Doja had an excuse to show off more of her vocal chops. Provided that Doja doesn’t actually quit the music industry, I would love to see these two get together for another track.

Jason Lipshutz: After “No Body No Crime” and the “Gasoline” remix, sign me up for like, 15 more Taylor Swift-Haim collaborations. Give me a whole album and tour together! Give me Taylor on a retroactive remix of “The Wire”! A guy can dream, right?

Heran Mamo: SZA and Travis Scott. “Love Galore” is truly such a beautiful ballad because of SZA’s emotive vocals and raw storytelling blending with Travis’ euphoric, Auto-Tuned bars and amusing ad-libs. He tapped back into his melodic pocket again on “Open Arms” from the now 10-weeks-and-counting Billboard 200 No. 1 album SOS (where he made another low-key appearance on “Low”)While “Love Galore” peaked at No. 32 on the Hot 100, I think SZA and Travis’ future collabs can build off their chemistry and previous track record (which actually dates back to 2015 with her cameo on his 2015 Rodeo cut “Ok Alright”) and take both artists to even greater heights.  

Andrew Unterberger: Halsey and Post Malone seem like they should be strong candidates to have this kind of relationship — though considering Halsey recently cut an entirely solo version of her lone Posty collab to date, their partnership currently might be moving in the wrong direction for it.

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