Why "Can't Feel My Face" Is Also About Cocaine

By Will Peisch, The Dartmouth Staff | 9/29/15 7:11am

As Dartbeat’s foremost expert on cocaine usage, I must inform you all of yet another major cocaine-related discovery in one of the biggest songs of this summer. This time it’s “Can’t Feel My Face” by The Weeknd, which may come as a surprise to some.

Although I did not make this discovery myself, I will not sleep until this has been made common knowledge to all.

The first clue that this song isn’t just about an intense crush is in the song’s chorus.

I can't feel my face when I'm with you, but I love it, but I love it

Science has done a lot of research on what happens to the brain when it falls in love. According to Pepper Schwartz, PhD, a professor of sociology at the University of Washington at Seattle, "In the early stages of love, you're pretty much drunk on dopamine — the brain chemical linked with feelings of ecstasy, cravings, even addiction."
At that point, your brain is so high on dopamine that you would do anything to maintain that high, which is why you get so paranoid when so-and-so doesn’t text you back. But there are only a few pleasurable experiences that are also face-numbing agents, and at least one of them has a c and an o and ends in –caine.

But cocaine connection becomes even clearer when you listen to the beginning of the song. The Weeknd starts things off by saying:

And I know she'll be the death of me, at least we'll both be numb
And she'll always get the best of me, the worst is yet to come
But at least we'll both be beautiful and stay forever young
This I know, (yeah) this I know

While people could argue the lyrics are vague enough that The Weeknd could be referring to anything, it seems more likely to be smack when you consider his background growing up in Toronto, where he spent nights getting high on MDMA, Xanax, cocaine, mushrooms and ketamine. One New York Times profile writes, “When Tesfaye [The Weeknd’s real name] wasn’t high, he wasn’t happy, so he did his best to avoid coming down.”

This aspect of The Weeknd’s life is partially reflected in the song. It starts with word “And” and finishes on the “f” sound in “I can’t feel my face.” By not giving a definitive lyrical beginning or end to the song, it feels like we’re hearing just a snippet of The Weeknd’s life. This seems to suggest that whatever is making him unable to feel his face is an ongoing issue, making the song way darker than the Michael Jackson-wannabe it might sound like on first listen. This incompleteness also extends to the pre-chorus where The Weeknd sings:

She told me, "Don't worry about it"
She told me, "Don't worry no more"
We both knew we can't go without it
She told me you'll never be alo oh oh ohhh

The (excellent) podcast, Switched on Pop, points out that throughout the song The Weeknd never actually says alone, but seems to get distracted by his own chorus. It’s weird that there’s so much cool stuff going on in the lyrics of this song, but people seem to ignore it because they automatically assume a pop song has nothing of value to say. To be fair, most of the time, those people would be right. When Tom Cruise comes on the Tonight Show to promote "Mission Impossible: Plane Stunt" and decided to lip-sync “Can’t Feel My Face,” it’s obvious he has no idea what he’s actually singing about — and no one seems to care either.

Spotify recently named “Can’t Feel My Face” the song of the summer because it was the most-streamed song on Spotify between June 1 and August 31. It’s incredible how popular a song can be without anyone caring what it’s about — you can literally get away with murder in song lyrics and people would be ambivalent about it. Even the minions below seem to be completely unaware — unless they’re the subjects of my next cocaine takedown…

Will Peisch, The Dartmouth Staff