Starboy - The Weeknd
Before you read this, I'd like to preface it by asking something of everyone who reads this. The Weeknd’s Starboy album is not Beauty Behind The Madness, Kiss Land, nor is it Trilogy. It may incorporate elements of all of them, but it is its own album. You can have a personal preference for any of these projects, but they really can't be compared because they are different. With this album, and anything else that comes out, let's try and appreciate it for what it is. Let's not be so quick to call something the “best of 2016” or “not like what he/she used to put out.”
Let the album and artist do that themselves. If something is the best, it shows it soon enough. And of course new music isn't like the old music an artist puts out….because it's new. The Weeknd is the same Weeknd he was when he first came out. His sound changing on certain tracks and his attempts to dip into more genres does not take away from the raw, authentic Weeknd we came to love and appreciate on Trilogy. That will always be there.
The day after Starboy came out, the HMTA crew engaged in one of the most positive discussions I think we've ever had through GroupMe about the album. Everyone preferred different songs, highlighted good things The Weeknd did, and was able to critique the album itself. Nothing else mattered. There were no assertions that he's “selling out” or “too pop-y.” No one seriously compared it to any other albums that have come out this year.
The only real critiques were too much autotune on “Sidewalks” and that Future could have had more bars. Many artists utilize autotune, often too much, so that was valid. And I think Future has reached the point in his career now where if he's featured on your album, we all expect more than what he gave on Starboy. This is not to be confused with me saying Future had no place on the album, but looking at his other features we are not wrong for expecting more.
The Weeknd though….he outdid himself. Ballads like “True Colors” and “Die For You” get you in your feelings. Upbeat party jams like “Rockin” and “Secrets” get your blood pumping. Tracks like “Sidewalks” and “Reminder” helps remind listeners that The Weeknd we have come to know hasn't gone anywhere, except past your expectations. “Six Feet Under” was designed to trigger our memories to the last time The Weeknd and Future collabed, following the same cadence as their hit “Low Life”.
“Starboy,” “Party Monster,” and “I Feel It Coming,” the singles released ahead of the album’s release, were all very well-positioned on the album. The only hiccup is “False Alarm” isn’t really being a good fit. However, for what it’s worth, “False Alarm” was more enjoyable when listening to the album sequentially than as a standalone single.
Were there songs that were underwhelming? Sure. Did he sing more about love than any other album? An argument can be made, but I don’t buy it. It’s easy to think so given how he uses more upbeat and pop-sounding beats. But when you get into the lyrical content, it’s the same as Trilogy, Kiss Land, and Beauty Behind The Madness. His ability to get you in your feelings while simultaneously talking about your past and how he doesn’t care how many men you’ve slept with, so long as you’re honest with him, speaks to the strengths of this album, if anything.
You don’t have to agree with me. You don’t have consider this among his best work. But what you can’t say is he didn’t evolve with this. You can’t discredit his ability to captivate you with the same lyrical content supported by more uptempo music that captivated you when it was coupled with slower, more somber sounds. Trilogy was a dark journey. Kiss Land continued that journey, but there were signs of his impending evolution rearing their heads. Beauty Behind The Madness was the point where that evolution took more of a form, and Starboy is the next chapter. I’m excited to see what’s next.