The Weeknd
Starboy


4.0
excellent

Review

by beachdude USER (36 Reviews)
December 19th, 2016 | 9 replies


Release Date: 2016 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Balancing light and darkness.

For an album with so many tracks that made an impact on both pop culture and the charts, The Weeknd’s Beauty Behind the Madness is remarkably faceless. The 2015 commercial juggernaut that propelled Abel Tesfaye into mainstream ubiquity features Tesfaye’s face dead center on the front cover, as if to say “This is the real me”, and suggesting that the artist himself saw the album as a sort of personal “unveiling” after years of hiding behind a mysterious crafted persona and dark, all-enveloping sonic concepts. Yet despite being branded as a “personal statement” of an artist finally coming out of the shadows, Beauty Behind the Madness was by far the most scattershot body of work that Tesfaye made to date. The menacing boom of “The Hills” had as little connection to the lush lounge music of “Earned It” as the latter had to the caffeinated funk of “Can’t Feel My Face”. Album cuts such as “Losers” and the dreary Ed Sheeran-featuring “Dark Times” made further stabs at diversifying into different mainstream lanes, and were largely devoid of Tesfaye’s personality or signature sound. This resulted in a collection of excellent singles and stylistically assorted album cuts that ran the gamut from engaging to forgettable. While this format may be ideal for maximum pop success in the Spotify age, where songs are consumed in playlists rather than as part of a body of work, it made for a painfully unfocused whole album experience. The tracks were mostly up to par, but repeat listens only deepened the feeling that the album was a product rather than an artistic statement.

One listen to Starboy will immediately make clear that this is not BBTM Pt. 2. Which is to say that while this is still a pop album with wide appeal, it also has all the hallmarks of an actual cohesive album. Tracks flow smoothly into each other and fit together well, and there’s even a sort of loose concept tying the whole thing together. Much credit for this goes to Tesfaye for honing in on his core strength of balancing pop accessibility and dark undertones, which was the focus of his masterful 2011 mixtape trilogy. However, rather than enveloping the listener in suffocating darkness and occasionally shining a light in the form of a brilliant hook or catchy sonic earworm, here Tesfaye flips the script, making a decisively pop album that still keeps elements of despondency and melancholy throughout. Nowhere is this more immediately apparent than on the opening title track, one of two Daft Punk productions that bookend the record. The song’s addictive drum machine and vocoder “ha-ha” chant is classic Daft Punk, but the somber piano accompaniment and vivid boastful imagery is all Abel Tesfaye. It also establishes the titular “Starboy” character, an arrogant and over-the-top alter ego that reappears at various points throughout the album. The song rightfully became a massive hit in spite of its numerous explicit drug references and f-bomb dropping chorus, and it sets the tone for much of what is to follow.

While achieving a high level of consistency throughout its 68-minute runtime, Starboy nonetheless encompasses a wide sonic palate that is as broad in scope and execution as that of BBTM, while never sacrificing a cohesive listening experience. On the more sinister end of the spectrum, “Party Monster” lives up to its name with a menacing yet addictive booming beat, “Six Feet Under” utilizes a brief feature from Future to great effect, and “False Alarm” takes influence from ‘80s punk and blends it with pulsing synths for a high-energy combo that has already proven to be the album’s most polarizing cut. On the other hand, the poppier tracks on the album are unafraid to embrace their status as future radio hits and club bangers. Four song on the album are produced by Swedish pop legend Max Martin, including “Rockin’” and “Love To Lay”, which boast some of Tesfaye’s most infectious hooks and sparkling production to date.

Perhaps Starboy’s biggest drawback is that in its desire to expand on Tesfaye’s pop ambitions while retaining his original persona, it can occasionally feel like it is splitting the difference in a way that is manufactured to appeal to as many different listeners as possible without offending, in contrast to the singular vision of much of Tesfaye’s old work. However, this rarely rises to become a major issue when the material throughout is of such consistent quality, and the album is often at its best when it strays furthest from the roots of The Weeknd’s signature sound. This can be seen in closing track “I Feel It Coming”, the second Daft Punk collaboration to grace the record. The track feels every bit like a classic Michael Jackson ballad updated for 2016, with the French duo’s lush production perfectly complementing Tesfaye’s heartfelt crooning. The track ends Starboy on an upbeat, romantic note, and is the strongest indication yet that The Weeknd’s future work may finally let more light in amidst the darkness.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Snide
December 19th 2016


7050 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Another average release from an average performer.

Good review though

FullOfSounds
December 19th 2016


15821 Comments


Nice perspective

StarlessCore
December 19th 2016


7758 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

ugh average performer

guitarded_chuck
December 19th 2016


18070 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"Album Rating: 2.5



Another average release from an average performer.



Good review though"



another average comment from an average user



go listen to the 2011 mixtapes and stfu

StarlessCore
December 19th 2016


7758 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

hob is the goat



this def does feel a bit forced in parts but idk i like it a lot better than a lot of similar pop, guess I'm just a sucker for abel

guitarded_chuck
December 19th 2016


18070 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

ye i have it on all the time good pop record

StarlessCore
December 19th 2016


7758 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

road tripped the other week bumped this the most of anything

Snide
December 20th 2016


7050 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

"another average comment from an average user"

Now come on, we all know it's an established fact that I'm below average.

Tunaboy45
December 20th 2016


18435 Comments


Starboy is a great song, False Alarm is solid, the rest is just eh



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