I'm Clifford Stumme, and I use literary analysis and research to explain the deeper meanings of pop songs. Feel free to leave a comment or to email me at with questions or ideas!

What does "The Hills" by The Weeknd mean?

What does "The Hills" by The Weeknd mean?

The Weeknd is taking the Top 100 Billboard by storm with two songs in the top five. His newly released album Beauty behind the Madness immediately took the Top 200. While "Can't Feel My Face" is currently at #1, Abel Tesfaye's song "The Hills" from the same album has reached #4 on Billboard. [The song is intense and readers should be warned that the lyrics contain heavy swearing. Additionally, the music video is not suitable for every age.]


"The Hills" is not only intense musically, mixing heavy soul and rap, but its lyrics are also worth delving into for a better understanding of where this now world-renowned artist comes from philosophically. Unfortunately, that place is not a happy one and listeners may respond in shock, pity, or empathy.

"The Hills" Lyrics Meaning

The song begins with The Weeknd rapping to a woman he’s having an affair with. He sings, “Your man on the road. He doin’ promo / You said, ‘Keep our business on the low-low.'” The woman’s husband is a traveling salesman or advertiser, and she wants Abel to be discreet, not letting her husband find out. By doing this, they create a façade which becomes a recurring motif in “The Hills.”

For his part, Abel is “just tryna get” the woman “out the friend zone / Cause you look even better than the photos.” While she wants the affair to be secret, he’s ready for it to be more open. If they’re still in the friend zone, then the relationship is mainly physical and not based on emotion, though The Weeknd seems to want it to be.

He comes looking for her house and requests that she “send[s] [him] the info.” She’s rich because he’s “[d]rivin’ through the gated residential” to get to her. Once she knew he was coming, she sent her “friends home” and though she’s going to “[k]eep on tryna hide it,” he knows her friends know.

Interestingly, in the music video, The Weeknd is singing while climbing out of a car crash with two other women (mentioned in the lyrics later) and going up to a large, rich house and walking in to find several women there, one obviously in charge of the home.

After Verse One, Abel launches into the Chorus to the accompaniment of a terrifying scream. He sings, “I only call you when it’s half past five / The only time that I’ll be by your side,” possible a reference to him coming over after work hours. Because he may not work traditional hours, this could simply be a reference to him taking his time.

He continues singing, “I only love it when you touch me, not feel me,” because he doesn’t want emotional closeness. He simply wants the relationship’s physical benefits. He then sings, “When I’m f****d up, that’s the real me / … / I only f**k you when it’s half past five / The only time I’d ever call you mine.” He claims his own guilt and calls his messed up life his real one, not a façade that he can put on at other times. He admits he’s made mistakes and that the real him is not really a nice person. However, he continues to perpetuate what he seems to think is one of his mistakes–a mistake he feels fatally drawn to.

In Verse Two, The Weeknd sings, “Imma let you know and keep it simple”: what he’s about to say is going to be serious. He’s preparing her for a telling-off. He doesn’t think their “relationship” will last: “Tryna keep it up don’t seem so simple.” According to the next line, before he met with her, he had already had sex with two other women, so he may not value this affair too highly.

And while others are “[a]lways tryna send [him] off to rehab, / Drugs started feelin’ like it’s decaf.” He’s done so many drugs that their effects on him are weakened. In the face of this situation, his reaction is to continue to “live life for the moment.” And though he believes this is working for him, he’s angry that everyone seems to want him to fall again–to “relapse.”

In the Bridge, he sings, “Hills have eyes,” a reference to Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes a movie about cannibal mutants watching humans from nearby hills and attacking them. Interestingly, the line could also be a reference to the Hollywood Hills that watch his rise to fame. Within the song’s imagery, the hills’ eyes belong to those who want to expose him or to have him fall back into not enjoying life the way he does now.

In the context of those watching him, The Weeknd wants to know who this girl is “to judge” him. He tells her to “hide [her] lies” and admits that he only has her “to trust.” He wants her to admit her guilt also and to enter back into a deeper relationship with him. He wants her not to be one of the sets of eyes watching him.

The Outro, according to, is sung in Amharic, an Ethiopian language that was Abel Tesfaye’s first. The singer actually is Ethiopian and gives a nod to his birth country by singing “I love you very much” in Amharic.


In the end, “The Hills” by The Weeknd means something more than just being about a love affair. It’s about facades and judgment. People pretend to be who they aren’t and judge others for doing those same things. Abel is tired of it, and readily admits his own guilt and his exhaustion with being watched; he warns someone who is close to him (the adulterous woman) to keep their relationship from being marred by hypocrisy as well.

Recently, American culture has been overtaken by a plea for sincerity and happiness with who a person is. Culture used to label people like “Bronies” (adult men dressing as characters from My Little Pony) as weird, but now others would call this “positive self expression.” Pressuring people to diet is attacked by those who advocate “positive body image.” When Meghan Trainor sings about “skinny b******s,” we wonder if she’s “skinny shaming,” which has become an actual thing. People are encouraged to express their sexual preferences in new ways.

While much of this is positive, much current ideology seems to be centered around the idea of “being true to one’s self.” We want to know that we can be who we are and that no one can judge us for that. Interestingly, The Weeknd takes that ideology one step further and claims that the truest expression of himself (“When I’m f****d up, that’s the real me”) is messed up and not praiseworthy.

But instead of doing something that would seem natural to some and fixing his problems, he decides to continue to “live life for the moment” and wants everyone around him to stop trying to tear him down and point out his wrongdoings because many of them, symbolized by the woman, are just as guilty as he.

Should we highlight our own uniquenesses and our “inner-selves”? Should we do so even if we’re not that great of people on the inside? And what should we do if we’re not good people? Do we continue expressing that or do we change? The Weeknd wants to stay the same and tells the haters to quit being hypocrites. What do you think? These are just a few of the interesting questions raised by “The Hills.”

What do you think “The Hills” by The Weeknd is about? Thanks for reading!



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