The Weeknd has been around since 2010, but only shot to household name status last year with his second album ‘Beauty Behind the Madness’, containing the infectious ‘Can’t Feel My Face’ and the more moody and admittedly darker sounding, ‘The Hills’. If that album made The Weeknd a household name, the singer’s third full album, ‘Starboy’ is set to send him into stratospheric popularity.
On first approach to the album, it might seem a little obscure, appearing to aim more at fans of ‘The Hills’ than fans of ‘Can’t Feel My Face’. Lead single, ‘Starboy’, a collaboration with Daft Punk opens the album as a moody yet deeply confident entry into the new persona created by The Weeknd. It’s a cool opening; The Weeknd glides with ease through his plethora of pop culture references and solidly plants himself among the lyrical greats of contemporary rap, even if he does name-check Star Trek within the opening couple of minutes of the eighteen track exploration.
Following ‘Starboy’ is the hugely self-confident, ‘Party Monster’, featuring Lana Del Rey. “I’m good, I’m good, I’m great” croons The Weeknd in a song that appears to be one big contradiction with Lana Del Rey’s input of “you’re paranoid” throughout. In a similar vein to ‘Starboy’, ‘Party Monster’ introduces the new persona played throughout the album: a confident (if not slightly arrogant), self confident crooner. It feels like the album attempts to adopt the manifesto of Kanye West’s 2013 masterpiece, ‘Yeezus’, in presenting a new character and sound to the fanbase. Whilst it certainly succeeds in the first two tracks, the third song, ‘False Alarm’ breaks the trend with its frenzied and loud sound disrupting the cool and suave vibe that ‘Starboy’ opened with. ‘Sidewalks’ must also be noted as a stand out track off the album, featuring Sam Smith’s melancholic vocals and a cutting rap by Kendrick Lamar mixed with The Weeknd at his very best, delivering a dramatic recounting of his life.
Naturally then, ‘Starboy’ delivers tracks that will be more likeable to fans of ‘Can’t Feel My Face’ as opposed to those getting accustomed to the darker and more reflective side of The Weeknd. ‘A Lonely Night’, ‘Secrets’ and ‘Rockin’’ all demonstrate the new and contemporary club style music The Weeknd is perhaps admittedly more popular. That’s not to say that this is necessarily a bad thing; the songs are solid and definitely very catchy. However, if one is listening for a complete and rounded album based on the first two tracks, these are distracting from that purpose.
Yes, there are some obvious stand out singles, such as ‘Secrets’ and ‘Rockin’’, but sonically, this is simply an album that delivers on producing something that is unlike anything heard before; if an album could sound cool and Sci-Fi, ‘Starboy’ accomplishes it. Save ‘I Feel It Coming’, which has a touch of the Eighties about it, ‘Starboy’ manages to deliver a unique and fresh sound mixed with cutting and clever lyrics that The Weeknd is now famous for.