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Review: The Weeknd's Album, "Starboy"

Short Film "Mania" Accompanies the Assorted "Starboy"

Featuring contributions from Daft Punk, Kendrick Lamar, Future and Lana Del Rey, Canadian singer/songwriter The Weeknd releases his third studio album, 'Starboy'.

Accompanied by promotional short film 'Mania', there’s lots to take in on ‘Starboy’ - it’s an incredibly assorted LP.

A strong desire to blur the lines between R&B, soul, electro, hip-hop and pop quickly becomes apparent.

Yet despite this, The Weeknd doesn’t seem overly concerned with what’s popular chart-wise or by what his peers are doing.

Now three mixtapes and three studio albums into his career, the 26-year-old knows what he wants to communicate and is able to channel his own personal aesthetic capably.

For the most part, the project’s dramatic, foreboding and sometimes eerie concepts impact as intended.

The Canadian’s wandering, forlorn vocals shine right across ‘Starboy’.

On the surface, he comes across as complex and deeply infatuated by women. Lyrically, an all or nothing approach to love (and life) surfaces repeatedly.

Squeezing the Most From The Weeknd's Maverick Creativity

As demonstrated on 2015 hit singles ‘Can’t Feel My Face’ and ‘The Hills’, The Weeknd’s output catches fire when the singer balances his shadowy characteristics with clean, painless pop elements.

The star’s adherence to this winning formula has seen him dominate the pop charts for the last couple of years, and it continues to serve him well on ‘Starboy’.

The singer’s murkiness adds a layer of contrasting credibility to the album’s otherwise sparkly pop offerings.

Though it’s debatable whether or not ‘Starboy’ surpasses its Grammy award-winning predecessor ‘Beauty Behind The Madness’, 'Starboy' proves that the Canadian is getting better at squeezing the most from his maverick creativity.

Placed amongst the project's stash of potential follow-ups to its unhurried, braggy self-titled lead single, 'Starboy' also contains efforts that defy chart radio’s strict demands.

Several cuts on the record’s back-end sound as if they're more interested in scene-setting and building atmosphere, than providing ear candy.

Though these tunes speedily invoke a range of brooding moods, they’re admittedly easier to overlook.

Singer Lana Del Rey is The Album's Stargirl

Expressing her deep admiration for the Starboy, songstress Lana Del Rey co-stars on interlude ‘Stargirl’.

Over minimal R&B beats, ‘Stargirl’ decorates intense, sexual lyrics with spacey, wide-reaching melodic arcs and over-processed, deformed vocals.

The nightclub vibe of highlight ‘Rockin’ is gratifying. The instant, springy, electro/pop tune elaborates on the thrill of causal intimacy.

The Weeknd is commitment-ready on ’True Colors’.

A lot of the tracks on ‘Starboy’ couldn’t be pulled off easily by The Weeknd’s contemporaries.

‘True Colors’ is noteworthy due to the fact it could. It’s a comparatively traditional and intimate R&B slow jam.

After hearing rumours about the woman he’s seeing, The Weeknd expresses a desire to know the truth about her on the track.

He remains preoccupied with unearthing his lover’s hidden qualities on juddering, addictive standout ‘Secrets’.

The Singer Steps Things Up for Kendrick Lamar

The Weeknd steps up to Kendrick Lamar’s rap presence on ’Sidewalks’, which features the Compton emcee.

The singer performs differently on the song. His vocal stylings impact more uniquely than usual - he can sound thrillingly out-the-box on it.

Doused with tasty guitar licks, the tune’s instrumental is further boosted by a rich live feel.

‘A Lonely Night’ takes inspiration from the hi-res pop of the 80’s. It enthusiastically plays with perky synths and hooky old-school flourishes.

In a way that everyone can singalong to, The Weeknd croons about being taken advantage of by an unscrupulous, loveless woman on pop tune ‘Love To Lay’.

Assisted by rapper Future, the singer does the same on bulky hip-hop effort ‘Six Feet Under’, only this time around the lady in question is ruthlessly obsessed with money.

Photo: Terry Richardson
Photo: Terry Richardson

"Ordinary Life" Sinfully Conjures Up Light Vs. Dark Imagery

‘Ordinary Life’ explicitly explores The Weeknd’s darker ideas, it sinfully conjures up a ton of light vs. dark imagery.

The sedated R&B track even mentions actor David Carradine’s eventful passing.

Supposedly written about ex-girlfriend, model Bella Hadid, The Weeknd proclaims his devotion to his lover on wholehearted electro/soul number ‘Die For You’.

Because there are countless other tunes on ‘Starboy’ which cover similar ground, ‘Die For You’ never manages to separate itself from the rest of the tracklisting.

Additionally, it’s easily outdone by the sharper, cutting ‘Nothing About You’.

The Delicate Romance of Highlight "I Feel It Coming"

Future pops up again over the heavy, trap/R&B framework of ‘All I Know’, which again, isn’t wildly replayable.

The Atlanta hip-hop artist doesn’t exactly outdo himself on the cut, he just energetically backs up The Weeknd with his usual brand of unbound rap.

’I Feel It Coming’ is a glowing high point though.

Featuring electro kingpins Daft Punk, the song’s less-is-more approach is enhanced by The Weeknd’s persuasive singing.

Daft Punk take a backseat on ’I Feel It Coming’. This allows space for the track’s softly-lit, romantic vibe to delicately unfurl. The whole song gracefully pads it out.

Nevertheless by the end of the tune, the French duo can’t help but make their presence known with a helping of automated, come-hither, love machine vocals.

Verdict: ******* 7.5/10

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