A Look Back at How Two of Pop Music’s Rising Stars Become Sensations

Story posted November 24, 2020 in Arts & Entertainment by Nicholas Mancuso, Grace Muratore.

Not every recording artist becomes popular by traditional methods. Nicholas Mancuso and Grace Muratore take a look at the genesis of the careers of Billie Eilish and The Weeknd, two of popular music's biggest rising stars.

One might think it would be impossible to rise up as a pop superstar without the facilities and tools of a recording studio.

Billie Eilish, however, proved that an elaborate studio setting was not necessary to launch her music career. Eilish got her start by recording songs with her brother, Finneas, in his bedroom.

Her first hit “Ocean Eyes” was recorded late in November 2015 after it was written by her brother. Finneas, who originally wrote the song for another purpose, said that the song was made for Eilish after he heard her sing the chorus.

They uploaded the song to SoundCloud with the intention of only Eilish’s dance teacher listening to it as a potential song for choreography. Quite the opposite happened, and “Ocean Eyes” blew up overnight, gathering over 200 million Spotify plays. Eilish was only 14 years old.

Not too long after “Ocean Eyes” went viral, another homemade song was uploaded to SoundCloud by the duo as Eilish’s second single in June 2016. The song, titled “Six Feet Under,” added to Eilish’s growing recognition.

It was then that Eilish caught the attention of Justin Lubliner, founder of Darkroom and Interscope Records. He signed her to his label and the rest is history.

Since her rise to fame, Eilish has released an EP and her first album, performed at Coachella, and had a song reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.  —Grace Muratore

From being a high school dropout in the streets of Toronto to becoming one of the best R&B artists of his generation, Abel Tesfaye, better known as The Weeknd, came from nothing to become one of the brightest stars in the music industry.

Tesfaye was born on Feb. 16, 1990 in Toronto, Ontario, to father Makkonen and mother Samra. At the age of 2, his father abandoned the family, leaving his Samra to raise Tesfaye alone with the help of her mother.

Tesfaye grew up looking up to Michael Jackson musically and found his groove listening to ‘90s R&B artists like Timbaland.

Tesfaye attended high school but did not graduate, as he dropped out in 11th grade and moved out of his house, leaving him and his friends to find a home in the Parkdale neighborhood.

Parkdale is where Tesfaye and his friends began the XO brand and where Tesfaye became The Weeknd, inspired from dropping out of high school—leaving one weekend and never coming back.

In 2010, Tesfaye met Jeremy Rose, a producer, and the two collaborated on an album which was eventually scrapped, but Tesfaye uploaded “What You Need,” “Loft Music” and “The Morning” to YouTube. These songs grabbed listeners’ attention, including fellow Canadian artist Drake.

On March 21, 2011, Tesfaye released his debut album “House of Balloons,” which rocked the R&B world.

Later on, Tesfaye released “Trilogy” and “Kiss Land,” which expanded his audience even further, and in 2015, he released “Beauty Behind the Madness,” which debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 and was a top-10 album in over 10 countries.

Since then, Tesfaye has released three more albums and doesn’t look to be stopping anytime soon.  —Nicholas Mancuso


Nicholas Mancuso is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email nbm9@psu.edu.

Grace Muratore is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email gem5301@psu.edu.

About the Contributors

Grace Muratore's photo

Grace Muratore

Junior / Broadcast Journalism

Grace Muratore is a third-year student from Fredericksburg, Virginia majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in Spanish. She is a writer for the CommRadio arts & entertainment department, and works within the production department creating elements for various sporting events. Grace also is a field reporter and part of the studio crew for PSNtv, Penn State’s biweekly news show. Currently, she is interning with Penn State Athletics doing live video production. If you would like to contact Grace, email her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Nicholas Mancuso's photo

Nicholas Mancuso

Junior / Broadcast Journalism

Nicholas Mancuso is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism.