The Weeknd shines as he continues his evolutionary trek on Starboy
After what seemed like years of being stuck on Thursday, The Weeknd has teamed up with Daft Punk to deliver Starboy, a true coming of age LP. I define a coming of age album as one that truly shows mastery of whatever qualities initially attracted us to an artist and growth in the development of their personal story.
The Weeknd has had success since first appearing on the scene with an eerie brand of electronic R&B music drenched in depression and substance abuse. The sound proved to be refreshing and captivating for most that listened. Whether it was genuine enjoyment or intrigue in regards to Abel’s hair, there has always been more than enough mystique surrounding the Canadian crooner.
When artists re-release formerly free music as their debut albums, as was the case with Trilogy, Drake‘s So Far Gone, and J. Cole‘s Friday Night Lights, long time fans are just hanging out on the sidelines waiting for a fresh release. Many onlookers, fans and critics alike, expressed mixed feelings about The Weeknd’s debut album, Kissland, which flirted with disappointing ratings across the board, considering the young writer’s immense contributions to Take Care.
It’s safe to say that something has been missing since the first string of EP’s, and I was expecting much more. Enter Beauty Behind The Madness. With the massive crossover appeal of “Earned It” & “Can’t Feel My Face,” The Weeknd suddenly had a new audience of fans that were not familiar with his usual ultra-explicit brand of content.
So, with the release of BBTM, came also other records that reached for the same crossover appeal.
The album did unexpectedly well and was easily his most successful outing to date. However, it felt like a jolting switch of pace and subject matter when after the first few “pop-friendly” records on the album, we were suddenly back to hearing of wild nights with varying narcotics and sexual escapades and instructed “go tell your friends about it”, you know…the usual. I imagined that anyone who bought the album because of “Earned It” or “Can’t Feel My Face” would be shocked and appalled around the fifth song.
With the single “Starboy,” The Weeknd is presenting himself as just that; an undeniable star. The album, of the same title, is by far the most polished and cohesive body of work that Abel has presented. The writing on this album is far more focused and concise, whereas prior records sounded as if they were coasting on raw talent and sporadic intrigue. Each song on Starboy is a carefully constructed pop anthem that wastes no time establishing grooves and melodies so infectious that you forget that you hardly notice the raunchiest of lyrics.
Lyrically, The Weeknd grew up. He’s found a way to deliver honest prose that pierces through the popular facade of love that is so often drilled into our brains by clear channel radio. Honesty seems to be a dominant theme with Abel. “Secrets” and “True Colors” expose his desire for openness from his partner, just as he has already given. Most of the hits occur in the first few tracks on the album. Don’t be surprised to hear “False Alarm” at your next rave and “Rockin'” has the potential to be the next “Can’t Feel My Face”.
The album takes a shift marked by collaborations with Lana Del Rey and Kendrick Lamar. From here on you get more of “The Weeknd you know and love”, along with a new Future assisted strip club anthem in “Six Feet Under”. Starboy sounds like an extended weekend in the shadows of celebrity; the impulse to press skip is minimal. Abel has delivered a unique listen that doesn’t necessarily exceed expectations, but instead, disregards them altogether.