Toronto R&B singer-songwriter, The Weeknd, is now on his 3rd studio album. The first of which was the terribly mediocre Kissland. It was critically panned and rightly so, it contained drawn out, boring, sample-filled, lazy R&B and an overuse of screams throughout. Which was terribly disturbing. The follow up to this was Beauty Behind the Madness, this was an absolutely phenomenal album which contained an aim at the mainstream but not in a way that was selling out as such, but shaping his already dark lyrics to match beats that the general public and radio would love. For example, the biggest hit, Can't Feel My Face, was all about his "face coming off a bag of blow" as he states on this album. Where The Weeknd really reached his creative genius however was with his first 3 mixtapes. House of Balloons is one of my favourite albums of all time, and I'm sure many of you agree. I wasn't the biggest fan of Thursday but the finale of the trilogy, Echoes of Silence, was absolutely fantastic. The latest edition to this beefy discography is Starboy.
The album opens with the title track, and first single, Starboy. It immediately starts as you expect a Weeknd song to start, with dark, brooding singing. The song is about dealing with coming from being homeless to being one of the biggest stars on the planet. It's an idea that seems to pop up a few times on the album, which shows that Abel Tesfaye himself is confused how he's made it this far with the topics he deals with in his songs. The song also immediately sets the tone of the album, with production credits going to Daft Punk, as they also do on the track I Feel It Coming. It's a classic Daft Punk beat, with loops and drum machines aplenty. Also, Starboy is a Jamaican slang term for someone whom is seen as cool or powerful amongst their peers and colleagues. It's a very narcissistic thing to call yourself, but nonetheless The Weeknd's bragadocious side is something that makes him so unique. The album then cranks it up a notch with the joint second single, Party Monster. It's a blistering song and is a re-introduction into his lavish party lifestyles, and his pursuit of another taken woman as he says "You tryna leave him, you said I'm the reason", I think deeper down these bold brash songs are to cover insecurities, as he's constantly reminding us of his excessive drug taking it comes to the point where they start to sound like cries for help.
The following track, False Alarm, is arguably one of his worst tracks since 2013's Kissland. It is a mixture of drum 'n' bass and outdated dubstep vibes. The screaming chorus is barely listenable at times and it becomes all too much when it climaxes. The verses are actually very good, as is the bridge, but the chorus. The main focus of this song. It's just not good. Not good. At. All. The next song on this album, Reminder, is one of my favourite songs on the album. It also contains one of the best lines on the album, whilst talking about his most successful track he states "I just won a new ard for a kids show, talking bout a face coming off a bag of blow, I'm like goddamn b*tch I am not a teen choice" and once again I think this is further dealing in his confusion as to how he has got to this point. And I think the album defines this confusion as well because there are a lot of different sounds thrown together, such as False Alarm moving into Reminder and then straight into the dance-esque Rockin'. Rockin' is about a relationship with no strings attached and carefree sex, it's one of the Weeknd's favourite subjects to sing about. But the 2-step dance beat takes away from the subject matter to focus on the beat, it's one of my favourite on the album so kudos to Max Martin & Ali Piyarmi for excellent production.
Secrets is also a phenomenal song, with the weekend adopting a lower tone to his voice in contrast to his usual falsetto. The Weeknd even said himself that he played the song to some of his friends and they didn't even know it was him. I find that hard to believe but it's good to see that The Weeknd is succesfully adapting and evolving his sounds. The song is very basic poppy R&B but it's one of those songs that can set you in a good mood just as background music or playing it really loudly. True Colors is a very interesting song, because Abel moves away from the usual player lifestyle persona he presents so thoroughly, and delves into monogomy and his need for it with a specific woman So he wants her to open up and show her true colours to him, as the title suggests. Lana Del Rey makes her second appearance on the album within Stargirl Interlude, and takes full reigns on the track with The Weeknd only popping in to harmonise within the second half of the track. The track suggests the idea that he needs a strong woman to complete him, but I just wish the song was longer because more Lana is always perfectly okay with me.
Sidewalks, Six Feet Under and Love to Lay further The Weeknd's exploration into dance influenced music, with a further fall into pop and ascending out of the underground. Kendrick has a feature on Sidewalks and it does nothing particuarly special for the song other than to throw in one of the biggest rappers on the planet right now. Six Feet Under also has an explosive chorus, where once again Abel Tesfaye adopts a lower tone to his voice and it almost amplifies the seriousness and darkness of the tracks he chooses to adopt it on. Love to Lay sits at track 11 and the album takes a turn after that, it becomes a chore to carry on through such a long where the Weeknd chooses to not evolve his subject matter and I'm starting to worry that it may be going stale, it may be time to see him possibly make a concept album or to move away from this drug persona and make a lot more risks. The album then closes, 18 tracks deep, with I Feel It Coming. My personal favourite song on the album, this is the more Daft Punk than Daft Punk with their synth toned singing voices making appearances towards the end of the song. The song obviously takes influence from Michael Jackson and other 80's synth pop. The chorus is incredibly catchy and can get stuck in your head for days, but it's also laid back on his part rarely stretching his vocal chords but that just adds to the charm.
Overall, this one of The Weeknds better projects and it explores the mainstream sound he found in his last album. The exploration, however, does not equate to him selling out because he's just as radio unfriendly as he's ever been but his popularity is climaxing, let's just hope he doesn't fall off anytime soon. The album could have been significantly shortened, and if it was we could have been looking at a 10/10, but it wasn't, so we're not.