TIME

Artists

THE WEEKND

Phenomenal musician

BY ELTON JOHN

This year, I met Abel Tesfaye, who performs as the Weeknd, at an Oscars party. He said I would be excited when I heard his new album, After Hours, but didn’t tell me why. That seemed to sum him up. He’s a mysterious figure in an era when mystery is rare in pop. And you never know what to expect next. He plays with personae in his music and presentation: on the After Hours cover, he’s dripping in blood; you’re never sure if he’s singing about himself, or if he’s in character. He’s got an incredible imagination.

It turned out he’d used the chorus of “Your Song” on a track called “Scared to Live”—he was right, I was excited—but he’ll also sample the Smiths and Ethiopian singer Aster Aweke. “Blinding Lights” is 2020’s best pop single, very ’80s-influenced, but it’s from an album that’s otherwise very introspective. He has so many different types of music tucked up his sleeve that he incorporates into his vision. He’s not interested in commerciality for commerciality’s sake, but he’s one of the biggest-streaming artists on Spotify. Like Prince, he marches to his own beat. That’s an exemplary way for an artist to be.

John is a Grammy-, Tony- and Academy Award–winning singer-songwriter

Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Taking Hollywood by storm

BY TAYLOR SWIFT

The 2019 Emmys were full of glitz and glamour, but as far as the Internet was concerned, there was one image that stole the show. The picture in question launched thousands of tweets, ranging from “Phoebe Waller-Bridge at the Emmy’s after party is a big fat mood” to “My vision board is just this photo 500 times” and the popular “THE POWER SHE HOLDS.” It depicts Phoebe, mid-puff-of-smoke, blissfully relaxing on a sun lounger in a glittery Monique Lhuillier gown, surrounded by Emmys. It was, to paraphrase pretty much everyone who saw it, iconic.

But an image alone doesn’t evoke this kind of passionate response without a story behind it. The reason this picture feels so good to see is that before this moment, there were seemingly endless drafts and rewrites and deadlines. There were countless times this writer was up at all hours of the night, not celebrating in the delicious glow of the light bouncing off her golden trophies, but racking her brain

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