Originally debuted by The Weeknd during a live performance at SXSW on March 19, 2015 under the title "Mood Music," the song was finally released on May 27, 2015 with a new title: "The Hills."
The spooky-sounding song finds The Weeknd singing of a secret relationship, possibly with a celebrity. The singer is all to aware that now because he is famous, the hills have eyes – i.e., everyone is watching him.
The Weeknd rose to fame quite rapidly in 2015, and in this song he takes the voice of a celebrity who is driven by self-destructive hedonism and has no qualms about it. The song paints of picture of what could happen if he becomes a victim of his success.
The song was produced by Million $ Mano, who was once Kanye West's tour DJ, and The Weeknd's long-term collaborator, DJ Carlo "Illangelo" Montagnese.
The ominous video was directed by Grant Singer (Sky Ferreria's "I Blame Myself
" "Night Time, My Time
"). The clip sees The Weeknd wake up after a car crash before emerging, bleeding, from an upside down door. Eventually, he stumbles down the street to an abandoned mansion.
The song is partly about the culture shock The Weeknd experienced after moving from Toronto to Los Angeles to make Beauty Behind The Madness. "I was working on this album in a world I'm not used to," he told Rolling Stone. "You're sober. Then one day you want to have fun, and that darkness comes back - and the darkness feels good."
He added with a shake of his head. "It's crazy. People relate to that stuff."
The song title and lyrics nod to Wes Craven's 1977 horror film The Hills Have Eyes.
Two remixes were released on October 10, 2015. One, featuring Eminem, has the rapper delivering rhymes from the viewpoint of Slim Shady concerning a relationship in which there is sex with no commitment. The second finds Nicki Minaj spitting a raunchy verse.
The Weeknd and Nicki Minaj teamed up on the October 10, 2015 episode of Saturday Night Live to perform their remixed version of the song.
The dark, apocalyptic 360-degree Nabil-directed video for the song's Eminem remix transports viewers down to the city streets, as we see The Weeknd emerge from a venue into a war-like situation. The singer decides to walk back to the doors, but gets hit with a fireball and is set ablaze.
Viewers can explore The Weekend's world with special virtual reality goggles to enable them see the visual from different angles. Other artists that have shot 360º clips using the same GoPro virtual reality technology include Bjork ("Stonemilker
") and Foals ("Mountain At My Gates
The droning bass line may have been lifted from the score of a 2013 independent film called The Machine
. It's a rather obscure film, but a producer named Emmanuel Nickerson (who goes by Million Dollar Mano) apparently saw it; Tom Raybould, who wrote music for the film, received a Direct Message on Twitter from Nickerson that said: "I sampled your music might make it 2 the weeknd next album. Huge fan of what u did 4 the machine movie!"
A lawsuit was filed on December 9, 2015, alleging copyright infringement. The section that was lifted can be heard on the soundtrack of the film
in a track called "Revolution."
The Weeknd included "The Hills" in his 2021 Super Bowl LV halftime performance, which took place under unusual circumstances due to the coronavirus pandemic. With a limited number of fans admitted to the stadium, he was able to use the stands to start the show before taking to the field.