It’s a Dark Philosophy: The Weeknd’s Intermedial Aestheticization of Violence

  • Kai Arne HansenEmail author
Part of the Pop Music, Culture and Identity book series (PMCI)


This chapter addresses the audiovisual aestheticization of violence in contemporary pop music. Focusing on the Canadian artist The Weeknd, I aim to illuminate how the aestheticization of violence partakes in a broader negotiation of identity in a pop music context. Where much of the literature on the connections between music, sound, and violence focuses primarily on the role of music and sound in violent contexts, I tackle the matter of how violence is represented through audiovisual means. By resituating theories of intermediality within a critical musicological framework, I devote particular attention to the networks of meaning that are mobilized when The Weeknd’s music videos reference the formal and stylistic conventions of other media forms.


  1. Arnold, Gina, Daniel Cookney, Kirsty Fairclough, and Michael Goddard, eds. 2017. Music/Video: Histories, Aesthetics, Media. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  2. Auslander, Philip. 2009. Musical Persona: The Physical Performance of Popular Music. In The Ashgate Research Companion to Popular Musicology, ed. Derek B. Scott, 303–315. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  3. Biddle, Ian, ed. 2012. Music and Identity Politics. Farnham: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  4. Breihan, Tom. 2015. Premature Evaluation: The Weeknd Beauty Behind the Madness. Stereogum, August 24.
  5. Burns, Lori, and Stan Hawkins, eds. 2019. The Bloomsbury Handbook of Popular Music Video Analysis. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  6. Burns, Lori, and Marc Lafrance. 2017. Gender, Sexuality, and the Politics of Looking in Beyoncé’s “Video Phone” (Featuring Lady GaGa). In The Routledge Research Companion to Popular Music and Gender, ed. Stan Hawkins, 102–116. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  7. Carvalho, John M. 2013. “Strange Fruit”: Music Between Violence and Death. In The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 71 (1): 111–119.Google Scholar
  8. Charney, Leo. 2001. The Violence of a Perfect Moment. In Violence and American Cinema, ed. J. David Slocum, 47–62. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  9. Cliff, Aimee. 2013. A Q&A With the Director Behind The Weeknd’s Most Controversial Video to Date. Dummy, September 27.
  10. Connell, R.W. 1995. Masculinities. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  11. Cook, Nicholas. 1998. Analyzing Musical Multimedia. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Daughtry, J. Martin. 2015. Listening to War: Sound, Music, Trauma, and Survival in Wartime Iraq. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Eells, Josh. 2015. Sex, Drugs and R&B: Inside The Weeknd’s Dark Twisted Fantasy. Rolling Stone, October 21.
  14. Ferguson, Christopher John. 2007. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: A Meta-analytic Review of Positive and Negative Effects of Violent Video Games. Psychiatric Quarterly 78 (4): 309–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Frith, Simon. 1988. Music for Pleasure. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  16. Gardner, Abigail. 2015. PJ Harvey and Music Video Performance. Farnham: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  17. Gilman, Lisa. 2016. My Music, My War: The Listening Habits of U.S. Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Gjerdingen, Robert O., and David Perrott. 2008. Scanning the Dial: The Rapid Recognition of Music Genres. Journal of New Music Research 37 (2): 93–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Goodman, Steve. 2010. Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  20. Goodwin, Andrew. 1992. Dancing in the Distraction Factory. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  21. Green, David. 1999. Better than SFX. The Guardian, June 5.
  22. Hansen, Kai Arne. 2017. Empowered or Objectified? Personal Narrative and Audiovisual Aesthetics in Beyoncé’s Partition. Popular Music and Society 40 (2): 164–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. ———. 2018. Fashioning a Post Boy Band Masculinity: On the Seductive Dreamscape of Zayn’s Pillowtalk. Popular Music and Society 41 (2): 194–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hawkins, Stan. 2002. Settling the Pop Score: Pop Texts and Identity Politics. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  25. ———. 2013. Aesthetics and Hyperembodiment in Pop Videos: Rihanna’s “Umbrella.” In The Oxford Handbook of New Audiovisual Aesthetics, ed. John Richardson, Claudia Gorbman, and Carol Vernalis, 466–482. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Hawkins, Stan, and John Richardson. 2007. Remodeling Britney Spears: Matters of Intoxication and Mediation. Popular Music and Society 30 (5): 605–629.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hoby, Hermione. 2012. The Weeknd: Sounds and Sensibility. The Guardian, November 8.
  28. Johnson, Bruce, and Martin Cloonan. 2009. Dark Side of the Tune: Popular Music and Violence. Farnham: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  29. Kaplan, E. Ann. 1987. Rocking Around the Clock: Music Television, Postmodernism, and Consumer Culture. New York: Methuen.Google Scholar
  30. Kendrick, James. 2009. Film Violence: History, Ideology, Genre. New York: Wallflower Press.Google Scholar
  31. Kimmel, Michael. 2008. Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men. New York: Harper.Google Scholar
  32. ———. 2013. Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era. New York: Nation Books.Google Scholar
  33. Kornhaber, Spencer. 2018. Donald Glover is Watching You Watch Him. The Atlantic, May 7.
  34. Krug, Etienne G., Linda L. Dahlberg, James A. Mercy, Anthony B. Zwi, and Rafael Lozano. 2002. World Report on Violence and Health. World Health Organization.;jsessionid=92B89E5C7B336A7E2DBD2571D4953CF3?sequence=1.
  35. Lamont, Tom. 2016. The Weeknd: “Drugs Were a Crutch for Me.” The Guardian, December 3.
  36. Lebrun, Barbara, and Catherine Strong. 2015. The Great Gig in the Sky: Exploring Popular Music and Death. In Death and the Rock Star, ed. Catherine Strong and Barbara Lebrun, 1–14. Farnham: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  37. McCracken, Allison. 2015. Real Men Don’t Sing: Crooning in American Culture. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Mercer, Kobena. 1993. Monster Metaphors: Notes on Michael Jackson’s Thriller. In Sound and Vision: The Music Video Reader, ed. Simon Frith, Andrew Goodwin, and Lawrence Grossberg, 93–108. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  39. Morgan, Daniel. 2016. Where Are We?: Camera Movements and the Problem of Point of View. New Review of Film and Television Studies 14 (2): 222–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Partridge, Christopher. 2015. Mortality and Music: Popular Music and the Awareness of Death. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  41. Pieslak, Jonathan. 2009. Sound Targets: American Soldiers and Music in the Iraq War. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Railton, Diane, and Paul Watson. 2011. Music Video and the Politics of Representation. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Rajewski, Irina. 2005. Intermediality, Intertextuality and Remediation: A Literary Perspective on Intermediality. Intermédialités 6 (1): 43–64.Google Scholar
  44. Ryan, Marie-Laure. 2004. Introduction. In Narrative Across Media: The Languages of Storytelling. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.Google Scholar
  45. Schreiber, Hope. 2016. The Weeknd’s “False Alarm” Music Video Is Insanely Violent. Elite Daily, October 14.
  46. Stutz, Colin. 2015. The Weeknd Arrested for Punching Las Vegas Police Officer. Billboard, January 12.
  47. Tagg, Philip. 2012. Music’s Meanings. New York and Huddersfield: The Mass Media Music Scholars’ Press.Google Scholar
  48. Turner, Victor. 1969. The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure. Chicago: Aldine.Google Scholar
  49. Valenti, Jessica. 2014. Blood, Stalker, Sex, Tragic: Maroon 5’s Animals Video Insults Every Woman. The Guardian, October 1.
  50. Van Elferen, Isabella. 2018. Dark Timbre: The Aesthetics of Tone Colour in Goth Music. Popular Music 37 (1): 22–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Vernallis, Carol. 2004. Experiencing Music Video: Aesthetics and Cultural Context. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  52. ———. 2013. Unruly Media: YouTube, Music Video, and the New Digital Cinema. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Wallmark, Zachary Thomas. 2014. Appraising Timbre: Embodiment and Affect at the Threshold of Music and Noise. PhD diss., University of California.Google Scholar
  54. Whiteley, Sheila. 2006. Celebrity: The Killing Fields of Popular Music. In Framing Celebrity: New Directions in Celebrity Culture, ed. Sue Holmes and Sean Redmond, 329–342. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Art and Cultural StudiesInland Norway University of Applied SciencesHamarNorway

Personalised recommendations