By Caroline Meister
Whenever I think of the Weeknd, I think of radio singles, and his new album, Starboy, is no exception. As a disclaimer, I do not typically like this genre of music so the odds were already stacked against Abel, however I do really try to listen without bias. I was not impressed with this new release; I think that it lacks a sense of lyric originality, and that many of the songs sound exactly the same. For someone like me, who isn’t a huge fan of R&B, it was boring at times, but for the R&B fan, it probably is more than entertaining.
It wasn’t all bad though; I think Abel was approaching the album as a concept album, or an album that tells a story. He slightly misses the mark, but the effort is there. The concept of a “starboy” is essentially a player, and that is played out vividly throughout the songs. I’m going to refrain from quoting any of the lyrics, just because of the fact that most of them are very explicit and derogatory towards women. Hand and hand with the “starboy” concept is the concept of fame, and how it ruins people. This theme is a common one with the Weeknd, as it’s present in his previous albums. The songs where these concepts shine through the most are “Ordinary Life,” “Reminder,” and “Rockin.”
He also plays around with juxtaposing the concept of a “starboy” with a weirdly feminist approach. Lyrics such as “she don’t depend on anybody” (“Six Feet Under”) and “so if I love you, it’d be just for you” (“True Colors”), are prime examples. Departing from the concept of the album and focusing more on the actual content, the lyrics are extremely unimpressive. But the production is incredible, often varying two or three times in one song. There are many influences that are apparent, however the most obvious are 80’s pop, dramatic/movie style, and 60’s Jackson 5. The album was produced by Doc McKinney who was responsible for Drake’s first mainstream album, Take Care, along with smaller roles played by Daft Punk and Diplo. Along with the amazing producers, there’s an interesting mix of collaborators involved in Starboy. Lana Del Rey returns, guesting on the song “Stargirl Interlude.” Kendrick Lamar, a massive name, appears on “Sidewalks.” I was less than impressed with their features; although I respect both them as artists and believe them to be very talented, I just think that their talents aren’t utilized as much as they could have been. However, Future is represented very well on the track “All I Know.”
Also, I noticed a shift more towards the hip-hop/club side of music and less of the R&B side. I would not say that this transition was done well, if at all. But I did not find the album unlistenable, and just like any other album, I had my favorites. In no particular order they are “Party Monster”, “True Colors”, and “Six Feet Under”. All in all, I thought that this endeavor by the Weeknd was futile, much too dominated by a desire to achieve more radio singles.