The Weeknd is a Toronto-based R&B singer named Abel Tesfaye. Songs recorded under The Weeknd name first leaked in late 2010, though the identity of the individual behind the project was initially unknown. The Weeknd released a nine-song mixtape, House of Balloons, on 21 March 2011.
In late 2010, The Weeknd uploaded three songs - "What You Need", "Loft Music" and "The Morning" - to YouTube. A nine-track mixtape titled House of Balloons was digitally released on 21 March 2011 through the artist's official website. Hip-hop artist Drake has been partly credited for generating public awareness for The Weeknd, after he quoted a line from the track "Wicked Game" via Twitter and linked to the singer's music on his website. In a review of the House of Balloons mixtape, Pitchfork Media's Joe Colly wrote that "all the thematic and sonic pieces fit together - these weird, morning-after tales of lust, hurt, and over-indulgence ... are matched by this incredibly lush, downcast music. It's hard to think of a record since probably the xx's debut ... that so fully embodies such a specific nocturnal quality." Frontier Psychiatrist's L.V. Lopez claimed the album was "brilliant, disturbing, and not safe for work," calling the song "Loft Music" a song that is "so unsafe it should come with a child-proof cap, so dirty that you'll feel guilty the next time you see your wife." Tom Ewing of The Guardian said that although the singing and songwriting on House of Balloons "aren't especially strong by R&B standards," the Weeknd is receiving "so much attention" as a result of its "command of mood." Sean Fennessey of The Village Voice called the mixtape "impressive" and added: "It's patient, often gorgeous, and consistently louche ... with the sort of blown-out underbelly and echo-laden crooning that has already made Drake's less-than-a-year-old Thank Me Later such an influential guidepost." Maegan McGregor of Exclaim! praised the mixtape: "Packed full of sex, drugs and some downright killer production, this easily stands as one of the year's best debuts so far, hipster, Top 40 or otherwise. Sputnik Music's Tyler Fisher said that "despite being a free mixtape, House of Balloons feels like a true album, a true labor of love." The title track samples Siouxsie and the Banshees' 1980 single "Happy House".