At the end of May, the Weeknd (née Abel Tesfaye) released the visuals for his most recent single, "The Hills", a dark, almost discordant meditation on lust, drugs, and fame. The track, with its grating chords and vulgar lyrics, is jarring to the uninitiated. But to those familiar with his repertoire, the only twist in "The Hills" is how it ends: as the final chords fade, a woman’s voice, syrupy and sedate, closes with a lullaby of sorts—not in English, but in Amharic, the primary language of Ethiopia and the Weeknd’s own native tongue.
"Ewedihalew, yene konjo, ewedihalew/ yene fikir fikir fikir, yene fikir fikir fikir," the voice almost cries, an elegiac ending in the language the Ethiopian-Canadian singer grew up speaking with the grandmother who raised him. The closing, when translated directly, is a declaration of devotion that deviates from the rest of the song’s lustful antipathy: "I love you, my beauty, I love you/ my love love love, my love love love." The phrase is in many ways reflective of the world from which it comes: earnest, saccharine, and dramatic.