Is the Soundtrack for The Idol Better Than the Series?
Is the Soundtrack for The Idol Better Than the Series?
Sound Signal

Is the Soundtrack for The Idol Better Than the Series?

The Weeknd's foray into televised drama may not be a resounding success, but the music is still great.

The Weeknd has the Midas touch—or so it seemed. Everything the elusive Toronto singer/songwriter touched turned to gold (and a stunning 30 of his singles have even been certified platinum). In February, he became the first artist on Spotify to have 100M monthly listeners. Months later, he was gearing up for the premiere of The Idol, an HBO Original that the network touted as “the sleaziest love story in all of Hollywood,” starring (and written by) himself and Lily-Rose Depp. 

Though The Weeknd's music has seen astronomical success, his foray into filmmaking has been rocky. The Idol was directed by Euphoria’s Sam Levinson, and its backlash preceded its premiere. Rolling Stone reported claims of a toxic work environment, and critics called the show a “horrific depiction of rape culture.” Viewers at home had similar reactions. According to The Hollywood Reporter, viewership for Episode 2 dropped 12% (going from 913,000 viewers to 800,000 the following week). Scoring a 22% on Rotten Tomatoes, The Idol is a far cry from The Weeknd’s seemingly effortless success in music. But the show does have one saving grace: the music. 

Inspired by films like Shaft and Purple Rain, The Weeknd released original music for each episode of the show, featuring big names like Future and Mike Dean as well as a forthcoming single from Lil Baby. “One of the Girls,” a single from Episode 4 that features Depp and BLACKPINK’s JENNIE, even topped Billboard’s Hot Trending Charts. Separate from the episodic releases is The Idol Vol. 1 (an album released June 30), which features “Popular,” a peppy offering from Playboi Carti, Madonna, and The Weeknd. The song has amassed over 55M streams on Spotify since early June. These robust numbers show that there is an appetite for more sordid work from The Weeknd—just in the form of music, rather than an HBO drama. 

Amid rumors of a cancellation, the fate of the series remains in the air. On June 15, reps at HBO tweeted, “It is being misreported that a decision on a second season of The Idol has been determined.” Only time will tell if The Weeknd can translate that golden touch to the silver screen.

This piece originally appeared in our biweekly newsletter, Sound Signal, which identifies emerging artists, scenes, and trending tracks, crafted by the world's best writers and curators. Sign up here to never miss our take on what's next in music.

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