In the latest development in the controversy spawned by The Weeknd’s comment to Variety that Usher’s 2012 hit “Climax” is “a Weeknd song,” co-producer Diplo has acknowledged the influence, and Weeknd has called Usher a “king” and said he appreciates the acknowledgement.
“The production on ‘Climax’ lends itself to ‘House of Balloons’ era @theweeknd,” Diplo tweeted Thursday afternoon. “When I heard those early [Weeknd] records they blew my mind — soulful in their silences, and a spacey iconic voice that felt uniquely internet. The idea of R&B having dark edges was what I wanted to bring to @usher.”
Weeknd replied soon after: “Of course media blows things out of proportion and takes things out of context. Usher is a King and always an inspiration so it was flattering to hear what him and Diplo did on ‘Climax.’ XO.”
Multiple media outlets pulled Weeknd’s quote from Variety’s cover story published Wednesday, in which he discusses the far-reaching influence of his 2011 debut mixtape “House of Balloons.” In that segment, Weeknd says, “I heard ‘Climax,’ that Usher song, and was like, ‘Holy f—, that’s a Weeknd song.’ It was very flattering, and I knew I was doing something right, but I also got angry. But the older I got, I realized it’s a good thing.”
Diplo continued, “One of my favorite voices of all time. I’m glad @usher, Ariel, Eric, and I all got together to make that epic song. I remember I had the title of the song before I had the beat. It was conceptual from the beginning. It was a song that always had a crescendo but never felt like it reached the peak. kind of like some relationships never make it to where you want them but for a moment it could feel like ecstasy.”
Reps for Usher did not respond to Variety’s requests for comment — but the singer is apparently made an effort to get his point across anyway, via his collaborator Eric Bellinger’s “ClimaxChallenge” on Instagram, and comments in a Beats 1 interview that aired Thursday afternoon.
As unpacked by Stereogum, Bellinger, an R&B singer-songwriter who has collaborated with Usher (although not on “Climax”) started the “#ClimaxChallenge” on Instagram, based on the claim that Weeknd could not hit the notes that Usher does on “Climax” — although it’s not clear how that challenge might address The Weeknd’s very broad comment about the song, which was written by Usher, Diplo, Ariel Rechtshaid and Sean Fenton. Bellinger includes a video of his own take on the chorus.
On Usher’s Instagram story, he posted a few videos of himself listening to different #ClimaxChallenge attempts, and sang it himself.
And in an interview with Zane Lowe on Apple Music’s Beats 1 that was taped Wednesday afternoon (shortly after Variety‘s Weeknd interview published) and airs today, Usher talks about the creation of “Climax” (and although he doesn’t mention The Weeknd in the excerpts released before the show aired, later he does praise The Weeknd’s fellow Toronto native and rival Drake, calling him a “young legend”). Read the excerpt here.