Abel Tesfaye, better known as The Weeknd (the name came from him dropping out of high school one weekend), is the Canadian singer who helmed Can't Feel My Face and made it a global hit. The song spent several weeks at number one in the US, and its hazy, "in the ether" synth soundscape has become an earworm recognizable at high school dances and wedding receptions alike.
But there's a deeper meaning behind this chart-topping track, and it involves drugs. As a former addict himself, The Weeknd seems to be drawing on some experience with cocaine addiction when he writes that he can't feel his face. Moreover, the non-too-subtle metaphor is reminiscent of the way that people can be anaesthetized to the pain and pleasure of cocaine use by taking a drug like ketamine.
As such, it's not surprising that some commentators have drawn the conclusion that this song is a straightforward, albeit somewhat explicit, tale of drug addiction. For example, a philosophy graduate broke the lyrics down for Vice, explaining that Can't Feel My Face is about dependence, desperation, a lack of inhibition, isolation, and relatedly, self-esteem, anxiety, misery, and ultimately, a painful death.
The Weeknd paired this song with a video that was equally as dark and dazed, featuring the star stumbling around in the middle of a night club, surrounded by a group of dancers who were wearing red costumes and masks to protect them from COVID. The video was a massive hit, and the song even made it into TV shows such as Empire and Being Mary Jane, and into video games like Madden NFL 16 and Just Dance 2017.