Say what you want about The Weeknd, but he is an incredibly hardworking, prolific artist. The R&B singer-songwriter recently released his third studio album this past weekend after much anticipation (and extensive promotion). The Weeknd claims that his influences for Starboy were The Smiths, Prince, Talking Heads, Bad Brains, and DeBarge – quite an eclectic combination of 1980’s artists to influence a 2016 R&B album, showing the exciting future that is in store for the genre.
Upon first listen, the album seemed to be slightly scattered in terms of genre, something that seems to be a trend this year. Are the aforementioned influences clearly heard in the album? Here and there… more or less. As per usual, Michael Jackson’s influence is dominant, but I guess it would have been redundant to name him. As well, this is not one of The Weeknd’s greatest albums lyrically.
Weeknd said "Got a sweet Asian chick, she gon lo mein" smh
— Craig Bro Dude (@CraigSJ) November 25, 2016
Despite these slight criticisms, Starboy is far from a disappointment. Compared to all the studio albums he’s put out, Starboy is characteristically the closest album to The Weeknd’s quintessential mixtape compilation, The Trilogy.
I won’t go on a rant about “False Alarm” because it seems that everyone else already has, but I will say that it is not as bad as the criticism it has gotten.
If The Weeknd's album is more false alarm than starboy, I'm steppin on pumas
— Geo (@icantstophim) November 17, 2016
Dang I hope the rest of the weeknd's new album isn't like "false alarm"
— Tay ? (@_taymcwhorter) November 18, 2016
Let’s just leave it at that.
“Secrets” and “A Lonely Night” definitely have an old school vibe to them, a sound that fits The Weeknd and a sound that I hope he explores more in the future. However, “True Colors” is a sexy R&B ballad that does not stand out compared to the other ballads The Weeknd is known for.
I am willing to argue with anyone that this album would have been nothing without the features. For many of the songs, it seemed like The Weeknd was setting up for the other artist featured on the track.
If there’s something that will never be questioned in The Weeknd’s catalogue, it’s that The Weeknd/Lana Del Rey collaborations can never go wrong. “Stargirl Interlude,” guided by Del Rey’s melancholic vocals, is perfectly placed as the transitional eighth track of a somewhat tumultuous album.
Something I never doubted was how perfect Kendrick’s verse on “Sidewalks” would be. On the other hand, I never anticipated how well Future would fit onto this album. His cameo in “Six Feet Under” was perfectly understated. But he steals “All I Know” just by being himself, whether you like it or not, and the Weeknd’s background vocals during his verse give the song a subtle haunting tone.
Finally, I will never deny the brilliance of Daft Punk. Having the duo featured for the opening and the closing of the album was the highlight for me. When “Starboy” was released as the first single, it seemed like this album would be one of many that have taken to the trend of throwing it back to the days of early R&B. “I Feel it Coming” sounds like a song 1983 Michael Jackson wrote, and The Weeknd’s vocals are almost a pastiche of MJ’s.
In all, Starboy may not be what every longtime fan of The Weeknd was expecting, but it would be foolish to dismiss the craftsmanship put into this album. Anyways, if you don’t like it, the way he’s been grinding in the studio, we could probably expect another project as soon as next year.
Watch the violent video for the infamous “False Alarm” below.