After being launched into the Pop and international stratosphere with his last album and hits such as “Earned It” and “Can’t Feel My Face,” The Weeknd sure didn’t rest on his laurels.
2016 came, Abel cut the pineapple off his hairdo and he launched his new album campaign with the lead single and title-track “Starboy,” a thumping midtempo featuring Daft Punk that, while remaining dark-ish, has enough edge for today’s Pop playlists and that dash of the Electronic French duo’s influence for good measure.
Starboy, the album, feels the same way. The Weeknd collaborated with his newfound go-to Pop collaborator Max Martin, but also kept things interesting by mixing and matching with the sounds that made him famous and a few more electronic turns. The uptempos completely shine on this album, overshadowing the slower numbers by far. It’s almost as if The Weeknd has now become the craftsman for a Dance-Pop uptempo song in 2016. Songs like “False Alarm,” “Rockin” and “Secrets,” which dominate the first half of the record and set a rapid pace, feel like the superstar anthems and blueprint everyone should follow to get a hit single for the next season. They’re catchy and fresh and they never feel repetitive or forced, which makes them nearly flawless.
The album sort of slows down with “Sidewalks,” which features a verse from Kendrick Lamar, and offers a soulful riff and a R&B moment while still retaining electronic elements such as the vocoder used on the vocals. “Love to Lay” and “A Lonely Night” pick the tempo up again with their MJ-esque production. Don’t be fooled by the Michael Jackson comparison though, they sound pretty diverse from the uptempos from the last album. They just feel like they come from that era and they would make the King of Pop proud.
By the time we get to track #13 we get to the point where the album has considerably lost steam. Perhaps some of these tracks should’ve been cut: 18 songs is a rather heavy tracklist for a Pop album these days. The two Lana Del Rey collabos at the top of the album (the co-written “Party Monster” and interlude “Stargirl”) also bring the album’s quality down by being downright boring and sleep-inducing like only she can be. “Die For You” is the song that claims attention back, just for the fact that it’s arguably his best ballad thus far. What’s interesting about the song is the R&B songrwriting paired with a more Pop-leaning production especially on the chorus. “I Feel It Coming,” a second collaboration with Daft Punk then closes the album with another nod to Michael Jackson. This time it’s the 90s portion of MJ’s career that’s being evoked to our minds, with the classic and distinctive melodies and softer tones and vocals that cemented him on the Pop throne.
Much like Beauty Behind the Madness, this new album is all about maintaining a balance between the old and the new, but while that was a more organic experience, the newfound stardom seems to have forced Abel to introduce a more mainstream undertone throughout the whole record.
This is an album that feels like it’s worthy of its title. The Weeknd is now a Starboy and he surely made a record that reflects that. There’s no doubt his success will reach new heights in the coming months and the album will spawn multiple hit singles for him. His transition to Pop star is now complete.
Listen to the album below: