The Weeknd
Starboy


3.0
good

Review

by Jordan M. STAFF
November 29th, 2016 | 353 replies


Release Date: 2016 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Misogyny has never sounded so manufactured.

I can admire The Weeknd's attempts to be an enigma even if it seems like he's not really trying. Take his work with Daft Punk on the title-track of Starboy: although the synths and drum machines can easily be identified, Abel Tesfaye's lyrics portray a fairly standard Svengali archetype. But he does it in such a way only he can, blurring syllables and phrases together, rewarding deeper observation and studious concentration. Generally speaking though, Starboy is pleasant but unnecessary: spread thin across 18 tracks, it's the same sort of trap balladry that, though consistent in its middling nature, constantly reinvents how bland the notion of experimenting can be. Fourteen months after Beauty Behind the Madness, it's an artifact that proves, if anything, that Tesfaye has learnt absolutely nothing.

The implication of this is that Starboy is completely uninspired and consistently boring, and that's not an entirely fair conclusion to draw. Earlier tracks on the album, like "Rockin'" and "Secrets," entertain the influence of funk and moody synthpop, respectively. At other moments, he takes on boom bap ("Sidewalks") and nu-disco ("I Feel it Coming"), rarely settling but always succeeding. And when it seems like Tesfaye's pushing boundaries and toying with different styles, Starboy is a win. But those moments compose a distinct minority of the album's running time, often leaning towards complacency that frustrates rather than disappoints. Take "Stargirl Interlude", where the typically passionless Lana Del Rey provides one of the most exhilarating moments of the album in a brief interlude that threatens The Weeknd's negative sexual impulses. It's different, and articulates complexities in The Weeknd that otherwise might not have been revealed ('I just want to see you shine / 'cos I know you're a Stargirl'). For the most part, though, there's hardly enough inspiration to carry the album past the hour-mark, evident when considering the breadth of influences Tesfaye's pulling from. Sometimes it's obvious, as in "False Alarm," where wild stabs of synth and sarcastically blunted lyrics sound clearly indebted to The Smiths and all the better for it. Sometimes it's just uninspired; at best, "Party Monster," at worst, "True Colors," "Attention," "Nothing Without You," etc. The greatest moments however come from Daft Punk, who create Starboy's most decisive victories. In "Starboy," The Weeknd kills himself, brags about his cars, and talks about snorting blow in synonymous language, all to the tune of a robust and hooky drum machine. In "I Feel it Coming," he trades up perverted for platonic, serenading platitudes over a lite-disco beat. In both, he's providing listeners with new possibilities for where The Weeknd can go, possibilities of radio hinterland that "Can't Feel My Face" didn't fully comprehend. However, for most of Starboy, these possibilities remain vague and The Weeknd's execution sounds staid; despite boasting a likable cast of producers, features, and influences, there's no devolution of familiarity or procedure. In one sense, it's Starboy's greatest success, navigating expectations by being at the very least competent. In another, more critical sense, it's disappointing, another suggestion that Tesfaye is just another well-wrought pop musician.

Not that "Starboy" is a misnomer. Talk of being the King of the Fall aside, Tesfaye's lyricism is laced with so much casual nihilism that it acts like a crutch rather than a character trait. Though there's probably a great deal that can be written about him lopping of his ungodly mane, Starboy isn't an album that particularly prizes reinvention. Save the nice little rebirth narrative of the title-track, it sounds like a lateral move. He's still trying new things in the vaguest sense- a tenuous nod to Prince and Bowie- but it's so infrequent it registers as anomalous and not the norm. Essentially, though the specter of legacy has given way to a distinct dearth of personality, Tesfaye has made the sort of album that rewards attention but doesn't punish cursory listens. It's still undeniably of-the-moment stuff- featuring Kendrick Lamar- and it's nothing worth effusive praise. But, much like Beauty Behind the Madness, it's a better defined rendition of The Weeknd, capable and willing of churning out hits and staying the course. That's good enough for now.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
November 28th 2016


18396 Comments


"Misogyny has never sounded so manufactured."

wew lad

Digging: Xiu Xiu - Girl with Basket of Fruit

FourthReich
November 28th 2016


3398 Comments


Arcade must be the life of the party

rabidfish
November 28th 2016


4734 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

it's misogynist yea... But whatever. The big problem is that it's inconsistent af. For every good track there's a bad one to countert it. shit should be 10 tracks, 12 at most, then it'd be at least a 3.5.

Digging: Gai - Total Control (81-85)

FourthReich
November 28th 2016


3398 Comments


No one fucking cares is the problem

Gestapo
November 28th 2016


1364 Comments


Yo good band

Mikailov
November 29th 2016


13 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Whoooooooo fuuuuuuuuuuucking caaaaares if it's misogynistic

Trebor.
Staff Reviewer
November 29th 2016


56343 Comments


People with consciences


Digging: Snail Mail - Lush

Futures
November 29th 2016


9978 Comments


lmao

Trebor.
Staff Reviewer
November 29th 2016


56343 Comments


wonderful review my friend

Futures
November 29th 2016


9978 Comments


time to throw out most of the rap albums you listen to

Trebor.
Staff Reviewer
November 29th 2016


56343 Comments


Dude my avatar is Sam Hyde obviously I don't actually give a shit

Futures
November 29th 2016


9978 Comments


i mean aren't you a person with a CONSCIENCE

Trebor.
Staff Reviewer
November 29th 2016


56343 Comments


I mean I make a lot of terrible fucking decisions day in and day out

Futures
November 29th 2016


9978 Comments


that is not a surprise

Trebor.
Staff Reviewer
November 29th 2016


56343 Comments


yeah just look at how many comments I have

JS19
November 29th 2016


7024 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

*Whoooooooo fuuuuuuuuuuucking caaaaares if it's misogynistic*



I'm sure u speak for the masses

Digging: Apocryphos/Kammarheit/Atrium Carceri - Echo

Cygnatti
November 29th 2016


32733 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I'm sure u speak for the masses
considering the content of his material has literally always been incredibly misogynistic, yet is one of the most successful (modern) pop artists in the entire world right now... yeah, he probably does actually speak ~alongside~ with the masses. :]

BigTuna
November 29th 2016


5268 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Honestly, one of the best reviews I've ever read on this site. Fantastic work.

rabidfish
November 29th 2016


4734 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

a good beat and a catchy hook make up for everything, u'know.

guitarded_chuck
November 29th 2016


16885 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i think hes actually nihilistic af and he sort of describes the party / drug / sex / romance / and now fame thing through those lenses in honesty



im trying to think if i find his shit mysogynistic too and im not sure, im thinking not really though and again its more of an accurate reflection of what is the casual sex party drug scene in toronto/LA



good review though, well written as always



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