The Weeknd just might be the most interesting musician out there these days. Going all the way back to his highly acclaimed trilogy of mixtapes, he’s managed to almost single-handedly shift the entire sound of R&B and pop. He brought an edge and darkness to the mainstream that so many have tried to emulate. With Beauty Behind the Madness, he found massive success and refined his dark, moody music into a modern pop masterpiece, all without compromising his art. With almost no more mystery left, he released the lead videos off Starboy, in each of which he kills himself, almost as if to let us know that he’s shedding his old self and looking to reinvent who he is as an artist.
“‘Cause too many people think they made me Well, if they really made me then replace me Homeless to Forbes List, these niggas bring no stress I feel like Moses, I feel like I’m chosen And if you ain’t my nigga then your girl single to me I don’t give a damn if a nigga said he knew me”
I wouldn’t say Starboy is so much of a reinvention as it is a readjustment. Right off the back you can tell there’s a noticeable decision to lighten things up a bit. It opens up with a bouncy, mesmerizing drum loop on the titular track, “False Alarm” has a full blown pop, punk rock screaming chorus which grew on me over time, and it closes with a very “Get Lucky”-esque song, also produced by Daft Punk, “I Feel It Coming.” Starboy just has a happy, well at least happier, sound and vibe to it and it can be found all throughout the album on songs like “Rockin'”, “Secrets”, and “A Lonely Night.” While it’s all more “lighthearted” he’s manage to maintain enough of that edge and sultriness that he’s become known for. The guitar riffs on “Sidewalks” are incredible and make it one of my favorite songs he’s ever done. His music has always been a nocturnal affair, but if his previous works operated in the pitch blackness of midnight, the stuff on Starboy finds it’s home in the dusk.
“I just won a new award for a kids show Talking ’bout a face numbing off a bag of blow I’m like goddamn bitch I am not a Teen Choice Goddamn, bitch, I am not a beach boy”
This toned down approach carries over to his lyrics as well. Right out of the gate The Weeknd started his career off singing about strippers, drugs, partying, and the seedy lifestyle, all with an almost nihilistic point of view. He even acknowledges this on “Reminder” where he amusingly muses about winning a kid’s award while talking about getting high off cocaine. He doesn’t entirely abandon this dark side of himself, but he definitely eases up on it. This is his safest work to date and whether that’s a good or bad thing is entirely up to the listener, but I believe it’s led to far less interesting narratives.
Have you heard Starboy? What’d you think about it? Do you like his move away from the darker parts of his music? Let me know in the comments below and be sure to leave your rating for the album.
Starboy isn't so much of a reinvention as it is a readjustment. Easing up on some of the seediness and dark narratives have made this his safest work to date, but it's still a highly entertaining listen and shows why he's still leaps and bounds ahead of his many imitators.