“Starboy” is the third studio album released by Canadian singer/songwriter Abel Tesfaye known by his stage name of “The Weeknd”. This is the follow up to his highly successful 2nd album “Beauty Behind The Madness” which catapulted him to international stardom with hits like “Earned It” “The Hills” and “Can’t Feel My Face”.
I enjoyed the previous album Beauty Behind The Madness – The Weeknd (2015) despite his lyrics showing him to be a bit of a abhorrent individual. This album deals with a number of the same themes but also the adjustment from where he was to where he is now.
This project is bigger in it’s production and feels a lot more glossy. I think that was to be expected given that he has managed to put himself into a corner of alternative R&B where he seems to have no competition.
Vocally the Michael Jackson comparisons will soon get boring to hear but there are a few tracks on this set that you would think MJ has risen from the dead.
The first song is the title track “Starboy”. This was released as the first single and can be a bit deceiving to what you are going to hear on the rest of this very long 18 track album.
On this track Tesfaye talks about celebrity lifestyle but I have to say the lyrics are very hard to make out with. I would say some of the verses are actually undecipherable as he is almost rapping but not. I like the melody and I like the moody tone that the song sets.
This track features Daft Punk (who will appear on the very final track) but they add little to the song overall. Despite the fact that this track is hard to understand and lyrically quite shallow it is infectious and I often find myself humming it.
“Party Monster” follows the theme of the previous album. He is unashamed of his behavior when it comes to women and partying. The beat on this track is superb and again the moody and dark tone he creates is gritty and adds a murkiness to his music.
Whilst this song at over 4 minutes is probably too long it generally works well as he produces a song which is anything but a radio friendly pop track.
“False Alarm” is brilliant. It’s a progression musically as Tesfaye creates his most up tempo song thus far. Again lyrically he is talking about the fame lifestyle but this time he is using the subject to describe a woman.
Whats odd about Tesfaye’s music is his lyrics matched with his smooth quivery soft voice and it reminds me of a scene in the movie “American Pie” when Alyson Hannigan’s character says “and one time at band camp I shoved…”. You just don’t expect to hear it.
“Reminder” talks about the success and fame he has achieved but his desire to be the same person that he was before is still something he believes he is doing. He wants to let people know he is the same person and he hasn’t turned soft or even nice just because of a few hits.
I’m like goddamn bitch I am not a Teen Choice
Goddamn bitch I am not a bleach boy
Whip game, make a nigga understand though
Got that Hannibal, Silence of the Lambo
Hit the gas so hard make it rotate
All my niggas blew up like a propane
All these RnB niggas be so lame
Got a sweet Asian chick she go low mane
“Rockin” is one of my favourite tracks on the entire set. The production is sumptuous and he really tests his vocal range throughout the entire track which songs like “Reminder” do not really show. This track is a straight up dance song and it is great to hear him do something like this as the only time I have heard him venture into this genre was with his feature on the Disclosure track “Nocturnal”.
“Secrets” continues the more upbeat dance theme. I love his vocal on this track also as it’s a little deeper and more breathy. I would not actually immediately know that this was The Weeknd if I was to hear it independently. It’s a superb song and at this stage of the album I can’t but help thinking that I am listening to something very special as we seem to be having great track after great track.
The 8th track is “Stargirl Interlude” which features vocals from Lana Del Rey who collaborated with Tesfaye on his previous album. This is under 2 minutes which is a little disappointing as the introduction of someone who is the ‘stargirl’ is an interesting layer to his ‘Starboy’ persona who seems selfish and only interested in himself.
“Sidewalks” is a BIG track. Featuring a stunning verse from rapper Kendrick Lamar we see The Weeknd really delving into his past and again wanting to let the listener know that it is his past that he is more proud of than this currently successful state.
This track talks about life before the fame, how sidewalks are a metaphor for the path he was on and the path he has taken. It has a great hook and whilst in the verses I am not a great fan of the use of the Autotune it is still a great track.
The 10th track “Six Feet Under” isn’t using any fancy speak to describe this woman who is the subject of his wrath. He says that this girl will do anything to make money and live the lifestyle even if it kills her.
She lick it up just like a candy
She wanna make ’em leave their family
She trying to live a life so fancy
She wanna pull up in a Bentley
She ain’t got time for lovin’
Louis Vuitton her husband
She rather die in lusting
She rather die in the club, ’till she
“Love To Lay” offers something different to the previous few tracks as the one changes in both production style and vocal. Putting it plainly – this is a fucking awesome track.
His voice matches the lyrics in a more compatible way because he is on the back foot during this track. He talks about a girl that in essence is very similar to him in that relationships are not something that perks the interest and we have someone who is happy to sleep about and enjoy him or herself.
“A Lonely Night” has a synthy 1980’s funk vibe. I am convinced by this point that this is an album I will be playing for a long time to come. Yes he sounds like Michael Jackson and it does sound like an off cut from the Thriller album but considering that MJ was that good then it really isn’t a bad thing.
I think a lot of the Soul boys will dismiss The Weeknd and with some of the track I can see why but there is enough on this album like this track which is there to be music to your ears.
Tesfaye sounds so comfortable on this track and whilst he clearly enjoys mixing it with the gritter side of R&B/Hip Hop he offers up a pop/funk masterpiece with “A Lonely Night”.
“Attention” grabs my attention because it sounds melodically like “Thinking About You” by Frank Ocean. Because of this it distracts me from any enjoyment that the track may give. One of the more forgettable tracks on the set.
As is “Ordinary Life” because it is hard to distinguish it from some of the other tracks of a similar ilk that we have already heard. Lyrically he is taking a retrospective look at his lifestyle which has been destructive and has robbed him of what we consider an ordinary life.
“Nothing With Out You” is a song where his displays pain more so than on any track we have heard to this point. Lyrically there isn’t a plethora of metaphors to hide what he is feeling as he sings a straight up R&B track about the struggle to live without someone he has parted ways with.
The 16th track is “All I Know” which features rapper Future who in everything I have heard by him I have never been impressed and that doesn’t change here on what is absolutely the worst song on the album. It’s monotonous and boring with the verse from Future taking ages to come and going on for too long. At 05.21 it will be a track where you will be reaching for the skip button.
“Die For You” is the penultimate track and has a very R.Kelly feel about it’s production and melodic structure. The song is a straight up love song as Tesfaye shows that he can delve into all faucets of R&B music from the soul side to the hip hop end.
This is a good track in which he talks about the pain of letting someone go and how his feelings have taken over his mind and his decision making.
Usually on an 18 track album you will see a decline in the quality of song as the album goes on but the final track on this album may be the best thing on here.
“I Feel It Coming” is just beautiful track. The MJ comparisons will be evident again but forget them for a moment and just enjoy a really magnificent song.
It features Daft Punk again but this time their collaboration is more evident in the bassline and vocal feature. This is such a nice track and I don’t mean to just say ‘nice’ as a throwaway word because I mean it sincerely. It is a beautiful little track that finishes off a long album but an album full of quality.
“Starboy” is a real treat. Maybe it could have been trimmed by about 3 or 4 tracks but the quality that we have on here is very high and The Weeknd continues to go from strength to strength. There is a diverse array of songs with R&B, Soul, Hip Hop, Funk and Dance music all on here to give us a expertly executed album.