Today marks the release of the eagerly awaited Starboy, the follow-up to The Weeknd’s commercial breakthrough.
Having drastically expanded his fan base with the release of last year’s exceptional Beauty Behind The Madness, The Weeknd’s latest effort Starboy looks set to further establish him as a key player in both the commercial and underground scenes.
At over an hour long, the 18 track record takes the listener through The Weeknd’s various styles and influences, all compiled under his increasingly distinctive electro infused umbrella.
We have given the record a few spins, and decided some of the main things we have learned from Starboy.
His collaborations with Daft Punk are on point.
Bookended by the two collaborations with veteran electro duo Daft Punk, the record’s title track and I Feel It Coming, Starboy is a brilliant representation of how two (or three) minds are better than one.
The first, a minor departure for The Weeknd, manages to combine his rare brooding sound with a serious pop hook. It encompasses everything that has propelled both to superstardom over the years, and alongside the album’s closer, sits very strongly in their respective musical careers.
Lana Del Ray voice is a perfect haunting addition.
Although listed as a mere interlude, Stargirl returns to the opener’s off-kilter daydream with an intensely darker vibe. Lana Del Ray, herself renowned for a somewhat quirky delivery, adds a Kate Bush-esque vocal to the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it number.
It’s one of many noteworthy partnerships on the record, leading directly into Kendrick Lamar’s appearance on the equally soulful Sidewalks; implementing some classic rock inspired guitar work and a chorus that wouldn’t sit out of place on a Polica record.
He definitely isn’t a “pop-star”.
On the aptly titled Reminder, The Weeknd defiantly holds on to his alternative roots. In amongst his self-confessed ever-present expletives, he sings: “I am not a teen choice.”
It’s testament to the niche in which he finds himself, positioned perfectly between mainstream success and underground hero. “I swear too much on the regular,” he muses on the same track, both acknowledging and shrugging off any criticisms that might stop him, thankfully, from becoming radio fodder.
Throughout Starboy he retains this attitude. It’s unreservedly sexy in parts, his lyrics never censored. Whereas the record could have feasibly propelled him further away from his early days, starting with mixtapes back in 2010, it instead marries all of his influences and cements itself as truly his.
He is showing no signs of slowing down.
Ultimately, The Weeknd (real name Abél Tesfaye) has built a successful career without compromise. Alongside its occasional curveballs – the gritty chorus in False Alarm for example – Starboy retains the ominous hedonism that has defined his back-catalogue.
For a star to succesfully celebrate commercial success with self-deprecating tales of excess (take the hugely popular The Hills as a prime example), there is little that can hold The Weeknd back. He hasn’t presented himself as a clean-cut pop champion, neither in character or music, and after all, that’s exactly what makes The Weeknd and Starboy so special.
The Weeknd reaches the UK in March 2017. Tickets are available now through Ticketmaster.co.uk.