The Weeknd is no stranger to dropping songs that are both smash hits and impressive music with a deep, and sometimes disturbing, meaning. From his most recent successes like “Blinding Lights” and “Save Your Tears” to some of his earliest successes like “The Morning” and “House of Balloons,” The Weeknd’s songs are always catchy, vocally impressive, and lyrically intriguing.
In 2015, with the release of his second studio album, Beauty Behind the Madness, The Weeknd (whose real name is Abel Tesfaye) shot to instant stardom. Though the album wasn’t his first release, it was the one that introduced the singer’s dark yet dreamy sound to a wide audience, and people were hooked. The album had a slew of successful singles, including “Can’t Feel My Face,” “The Hills,” and “In the Night.” The latter song, in particular, showcases The Weeknd’s ability to transform a lyrically dark song into something mesmerizing and haunting. On the surface, “In the Night” may seem like a simple, catchy single, but there are deeper implications to the lyrics. Keep reading to learn more about what the hit song really means.
'In the Night' tells a tragic story of abuse
Upon first listening to “In the Night,” it’s clear that The Weeknd is talking about a troubled woman: “All alone, she was livin’ / In a world without an end or beginnin’ / Baby girl was livin’ life for the feelin’ / But I don’t mind, I don’t mind.” According to Genius, the song explores the complicated adult life of a woman who had suffered sexual abuse as a child — further evidenced by the line “She was young and she was forced to be a woman.” Now an adult, she is “numb” and “co-dependent.”
As a way to cope, this woman relies on dancing and stripping to curb her trauma and ease the suffering, which The Weeknd fully delves into in the chorus: “In the night she hears him calling / In the night she’s dancin’ to relieve the pain.” The woman is haunted by memories of her abuse, as she hears her abuser “calling” in the night, though he isn’t really there. However, it’s unclear whether using her sexuality to “relieve the pain” and escape the traumatic memories is actually working. The lyric “it make her weak when she hear it” could suggest that the performance actually brings her back to the moment of the initial abuse.
If that sounds like a familiar story, it might have to do with the fact that The Weeknd was inspired by an American icon while writing the song.
Marilyn Monroe may have inspired the song
As it turns out, Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe partly inspired the story behind “In the Night.” While speaking to GQ in 2015, The Weeknd opened up about writing the song with Max Martin. “Max’s studio used to be Marilyn Monroe’s old house and I came up with the concept for a song called ‘In the Night’ in her bedroom. That was pretty amazing,” he recalled.
Monroe, of course, is a renowned American sex symbol — and, according to Genius, she used this status as a source for healing before an ultimately tragic end, similar to the woman whom The Weeknd describes in the song. In an archive of her diaries, poems, and letters — published by Vanity Fair in 2010 — Monroe herself explores the idea of coping with trauma through sexuality. Considering the themes in “In the Night,” it’s easy to see how Monroe’s story inspired The Weeknd in writing the song.
Though the song sounds upbeat, “In the Night” explores dark themes. Along with some of his other songs like “Too Late” and “Blinding Lights,” the singer continues to forge ahead with his songwriting, unafraid to delve into taboo topics and underlying meanings.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual assault, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit RAINN.org for additional resources.
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