Starboy strikes me as an album from an artist very much in transition. The overall end result is a diverse album which excels at achieving its aim. As an avid music fan, I believe an album should be listened to in the order the artist presents it, as there must be a reason they have put the songs in such an order. The same way The Weeknd has transitioned from being an alternative RnB artist to a big fixture in the world of Pop culture, Starboy as an album transitions from the kind of Pop songs The Weeknd has started to produce in recent times to the kind electro RnB with which he made his name.
The album opens with the Daft Punk produced title track which has been plastered all over radio stations since its release. This, along with several of the ones early on in the album, is perfectly reflective of The Weeknd’s new music where he is almost exclusively a Pop star. Now these tracks are not to my personal taste, with Secrets and Rockin’ in particular having such a generic Pop feel I felt like the Canadian artist was almost losing the creative individuality which catapulted him to fame. The basic repeated lyric of ‘We Can Just Be Rockin’ was so basic it felt like it would have been more at home in a One Direction song. He gives evidence as to how he has distanced himself from his original genre in Reminder with the line ‘All these RnB n***as be so lame.’
However, I do appreciate that The Weeknd is trying to reach a larger target audience and I would be very surprised if he is not incredibly successful in doing so. As with many of the songs in this genre, despite it not being the kind of music I would personally choose to listen to, after a few listens they become very catchy and find yourself enjoying them far more than on your first listen. They grow on you and are far from bad songs, I just feel they are a far cry from his original hits such as ‘High for This’.
In my opinion, the turning point of this albums comes during Stargirl Interlude, which features an artist who is equally as known for their eerie and unique style as The Weeknd: Lana Del Rey. From this point on we are thrust from new-era The Weeknd and Pop culture into a dark and eerie throwback to something closer to ‘House of Balloons,’ the mixtape that made him (note I said closer; it still has many differences). For me, this is where the album comes into its own. Sidewalks, which features the limelight stealing Kendrick Lamar, is the song of the album. From here The Weeknd takes us down a path which is far less destined for the radio than the first part of his album, and it shines. Songs such as Attention and Die For You deliver a completely different vibe to the first half of the album. This change up makes the album far more appealing and an overall better listen.
One criticism I would have is that lyrically the album is relatively simple, with much of the songs being about sex, drugs or money. However this is a hard criticism to make as these things appeal to the culture that The Weeknd is targeting. Another comment I would make on this is The Weeknd is not a rapper, so his lyrics are not as essential.
Overall the album seems to perfectly capture an artist caught between genres, at a crossroads in his career. The Weeknd seems unsure whether to catapult himself into a full blown Pop star, or return to something a little more unique and artistically different. As an album, Starboy includes both of these elements, and covers several genres. It’s up for debate whether it works or not, but it certainly makes for something worth listening to.
By Cameron Sahota