Abel Tesfaye, better known as his stage name The Weeknd, has come along way from being the underground, Toronto crooner with his chart-topping album Starboy. The Weeknd has slowly climbed to stardom and proves that he is prepared to remain at the top of the charts. It’s been years since The Weeknd charmed us with his underground, tortured music that had us helplessly fall in love with his soft, tender voice as he sang about love, drugs, and his own securities. With each album and feature, The Weeknd displays improvement and maturity as he takes chances and switches up his sound. Not deterred from the transition, The Weeknd’s loyal fan base embraces a new side to him.
Fueled with more catchy beats, Starboy is The Weeknd making a name for himself as he sets himself apart from other competition. In an interview with Daily Mail, the singer mentions his insecurities and how he would get on stage drunk. Referring to his insecurity that he does not look like other R&B artists, the Weeknd proves he does not need any other factors to add to his appeal–which makes him unique. He is himself; when he performs, he does not need backup dancers or cool dance moves to keep up enthralled, which is another reason why he remains nervous about performing. But the draw to The Weeknd’s music is more than just his amazing vocals; it’s the elusiveness and the air of quiet mystery he keeps around him like a cloak. Even as he rises to fame, The Weeknd is still unknown, which I believe adds to his appeal. Even though I still miss the mumbled French he spoke in his mixtapes, it is almost impossible for him to disappoint.
Jumping on the extended music-video train, along with a video for “Starboy” and “False Alarm,” “M A N I A” is a 12-minute video that features some songs on the album. Heavy with symbolism and swimming with beautiful women, “M A N I A” has a lingering dark and serious tone despite The Weeknd’s soft, sensual voice in the background. Sharing the same name as the album, “Starboy” is the first track that was released prior the album release date, which allowed us a taste of how the rest of the album would transpire. A music video accompanies this track, which seems to be an interlude for “M A N I A.” The word “starboy” is actually a Jamaican slang for a person who is seen as cool or important to their peers, which seems to be The Weeknd solidifying his place on the top. The track oozes with pain and emptiness despite bragging about the riches and women he has acquired since the fame. The catchy beat almost disguises the heartfelt and lonely lyrics as The Weeknd discusses feeling adrift because he is always working and touring. Despite bemoaning his grievances, The Weeknd is quietly determined to be a successful artist.
One of the two singles released a week prior to Starboy, “Party Monster” is an upbeat track where The Weeknd assures that he is doing fine. The Weeknd also reveals an urge to find a girl who can understand him, which can mean emotionally or a girl who can understand and accept his darker nature and share his same desire for partying. Lana Del Rey appears in the background, hauntingly whispering “Paranoid.” The songstress also later makes memorable appearance on an another track “Stargirl Interlude,” where her talents adds a poignant element to the track. Not a personal favorite, “False Alarm” is also accompanied by a music video. The Weeknd talks about a mystery girl who is swept up in her lavish lifestyle. Questioning her love, The Weeknd labels her a “false alarm,” The Weeknd pities her because she is trapped in her own her obsession with materialistic things. A track to remind his haters that he is here to stay on top of the charts, “Reminder,” The Weeknd shuts down any rising doubts.
Taking a break from his heartbreaking ballads from his earlier work, The Weeknd has pumped the tempo with the track “Rockin.” A sweet and romantic song, I can imagine this slowly becoming a wedding song. In this track, The Weeknd wants to forget about commitments and urges to find a woman who enjoys fun and frivolous sex. The Weeknd’s voice is almost unrecognizable on the next song, “Secrets,” where his voice is lower than we are used to. Claiming to be in love with this girl, The Weeknd believes that their love is not mutual and suspects her love is fake. The Weeknd eventually switches to his more hyper-pitched singing as he says he knows her “secrets,” which means she apparently talks in her sleep.
An amazing song, “True Colors” makes you want to embrace all your imperfections. The beat for the track is amazing, the hook is beautiful and revealing as The Weeknd seems eager to get to know more about this mystery woman. Unlike his previous music from his other albums, there is a trace of The Weeknd’s yearning for monogamy when he sings. In the track “Sidewalks,” both The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar highlight their transition from their humble beginnings to their fame. Both artists painfully reminisce the journey to their current popularity and how pursuing music saved them. Featuring an emotionally distant girl who is hungry for money, in “Six Feet Under” The Weeknd judges the woman’s shallow aspirations for fame and security. Future joins The Weeknd in the chorus, similar to their track together, “Low Life,” the song featured on the rapper’s album Evol. Future also appears on the track “All I Know,” where The Weeknd once again bemoans how both he and this mysterious woman cannot come together because of their differences and their refusal to change.
In the track “Love to Lay,” The Weeknd is hurt by this same mysterious woman, blaming himself for getting wrapped up with her. “A Lonely Night” prolongs The Weeknd’s frustration with the woman, upset that this woman loves him when wants to keep it frivolous and unattached. Mustafa The Poet joins along with the Weeknd as he harmonizes with him on “Attention.” The Weeknd appreciates the woman’s outer and inner beauty as he urges her to teach him how to love her properly, but then The Weeknd claims the unnamed woman is looking for attention, which apparently frustrates him because he is too busy.
The track “Ordinary Life” is ironic because The Weeknd recognizes his hedonistic lifestyle as he parties and does drugs, is in fact, not ordinary. “Nothing Without You” changes the mood of the next few songs, crooning as he expresses his poignant regret for a girl that he loves, yet he cannot stay with her. “Die For You” follows along with The Weeknd’s more somber mood. Expressing his conflicted emotions, the song is extremely tender and raw. Ending the album with a yearning for mutual love and understanding, “I Feel it Coming” was part of two-single release in November. This final track reveals that The Weeknd wants this relationship to work, claiming he can urge this woman to learn to love him, too.
Ever since the release of Starboy on Nov. 25th, the feedback from the album has been overwhelmingly positive and the Weeknd has taken to Instagram to voice his appreciation of his fans. Tour dates have been released, and though it’s a year away–I can’t wait!
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Album Review: ‘Starboy’ by The Weeknd: Featured image courtesy of Starboy