Highlights: The Weeknd, ‘Starboy’


The Weeknd, Starboy © Republic

★★★½

Canadian R&B standout The Weeknd returns with a massive, urban-pop effort (Starboy) that offers something for a variety of listeners. 

Abel Tesfaye, better known as The Weeknd, took a risk on his third studio album, Starboy.  He dropped the highly anticipated new LP on Black Friday.  While most labels avoid Thanksgiving week for new releases, issuing Starboy at a questionable time showcases how his star has risen.  His sophomore album Beauty Behind the Madness was a huge commercial success, earning him two Grammys. Undoubtedly, The Weeknd expects more big things from Starboy, a big urban-pop effort meant to appeal to numerous audiences.

“Starboy”

Promo single Starboy,” featuring Daft Punk, kicks off the album sensationally. The Weeknd flaunts his high-pitched voice in all its distinctive, beautiful glory. Even so, he packs a punch with his toughness, referencing cocaine and being profane, most notably on the chorus. Ultimately, “Starboy” is a catchy, well-produced record oozing in swag.

Party Monsterkeeps the celebration afloat, without finding The Weekend digging deep. shallow, within the first verse, he references the [stripper] pole, drinks, and sex. Also, familiar to The Weeknd, he goes on to reference popping pills.  Even as he eschews depth and embraces shallower things, “Party Monster” is fun and somewhat tamer than previous singles in this vine. 

“False Alarm”  

False Alarmhas incited something of a “love it or hate it” reaction from folks.  A bomb on the Billboard Hot 100, this hybrid cut of sorts doesn’t do it for everyone.  The record has an edgy, biting, rock quality.  He’s most aggressive on the refrain where he screams, shouting the most cliché lyric ever – repeated “heys.”  Those who criticize the record overlook the theme in their derision – a gold-digging girl. That said, shallowness is nothing new to him, so it doesn’t sound brand new here.

“True Colors” arrives timely, slackening the pace after two rollicking dance tracks.  For contemporary R&B fans, this moment marks a return to form The Weeknd. Those who enjoy “The Hills” or “Wicked Games” should be onboard.  Interestingly, “True Colors” is one of the least profane songs of his career.  Even without f-bombs, it’s effective.

“Sidewalks”

“Sidewalks” features the ubiquitous Kendrick Lamar.  “Sidewalks” doesn’t earn the distinction of being the best song from Starboy – that’s likely the title track or closer – but it is one of the more intriguing listens.  The Weeknd is brutally honest here, showcasing the utmost authenticity:

“Homeless to Forbes List, these niggas bring no stress / I feel like Moses, I feel like I’m chosen.”

As for K-Dot, he’s on autopilot, rapping with incredible agility.

“I Feel It Coming”

I Feel It Coming(featuring Daft Punk) closes Starboy exquisitely.  “I Feel It Coming” dons a pop-soul sensibility, while The Weeknd deservedly earns MJ comparisons.  His subtlety and eschewal of profanity bode well here.

Final Thoughts  

How does Starboy stack up? All in all, it is a worthwhile, enjoyable album. That said, Starboy is too long in duration.  Had The Weeknd trimmed the album, it would’ve been more effective.  While he doesn’t cover new ground on album three, there is something for everybody. A classic? No, but successful overall.

Gems: “Starboy,” “Party Monster,” “False Alarm,” “True Colors,” “Sidewalks” & “I Feel It Coming”

The Weeknd • Starboy • Republic • Release: 11.25.16  
Photo Credit: Republic  

A full track-by-track review of the album can be found at The Musical Hype.

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