Hailing from outside Toronto, Canadian rapper The Weeknd has had a busy year. Fresh from his fame off of his first full album The Beauty Behind the Madness, the world eagerly awaited what Abel Makkonen Tesfaye might do next in his musical career. With the November 25 release of his new album Starboy, I feel like he has written a compelling argument as to why he deserves to remain at the forefront of the music industry. The Weeknd blends smooth rap verses with interchanged bursts of aggressive EDM synths and jumpy pop melodies, which makes for a unique listening experience.
The album starts off with the titular track “Starboy,” which is a pop-infused low key R&B masterpiece. Tesfaye discusses the properties of wealth, and how he ascends through the materialistic world in the same sense one can ascend to heaven. Remarking how his “P1 cleaner than your church shoes,” The Weeknd draws a concrete distinction between past and present, between the growing divide in faith in religion and faith in money. Paired with a soft piano contrasting with a heavy-hitting drum pad, “Starboy” draws in listeners and doesn’t let them go until the song comes to its conclusion.
Immediately following this is the darker and more ominous “Party Monster.” Talking about girls who indulge their vices at social events, The Weeknd delivers a tune that would sound amazing when played on bass-boosted speakers. The slow nature combined with the foreboding synths leaves listeners waiting for each individual bass line, as The Weeknd’s voice lures them in with its constant pitch changes. This was one of the highlights of the album for me, and I can see it being played and soon overplayed on mainstream radio.
Another highlight of the album is the song “Secrets.” Drawing elements from ‘80s disco and melding them with traces of modern EDM, The Weeknd makes a song that is both catchy and fun to listen to. Sampling the chorus from The Romantic’s 1984 smash hit “Talking in Your Sleep” and remixing it with the 1983 UK hit “Pale Shelter” by Tears For Fears, Abel takes listeners on a rollercoaster through time as an omnipresent drum loop evokes images of dance floors. You can almost feel the flashing lights and the shifting moods as dancers stomp their feet and party the night away.
Skipping ahead even more, we come to my favorite single: “Sidewalks.” A carefree electronic rhythm combined with a ska-esque beat is the underlying pitch while Abel rants about his childhood and how far he’s come. Then, out of nowhere, comes Kendrick Lamar, and his rapid-fire rap creates a nice contrast with Abel’s sing-song style. Personally, I think this song would appeal to everyone: fans of rap and fans of pop alike can revel in this masterpiece that The Weeknd has created.
Skipping to the end of the album, listeners are confronted with what Rolling Stone calls “a gem of Ibiza love” with “I Feel It Coming.” Working with Daft Punk, who helped him with the album’s first track, The Weeknd makes a slow song that would ideally play when a club is wrapping down its party and wants the patrons to slow down and appreciate the simple fibers of their existence. The song is very much Daft Punk influenced, which works well with Tesfaye’s slow and mellow voice. I like this song as an ending to Starboy, as it heralds the end of the album and the finality of an amazing music experience.
In short, I enjoyed Starboy a lot. The Weeknd has created a great album that will keep me entertained for a while. Many people obviously think the same, as it has broken Spotify’s streaming record, with 223 million listeners in its first week. If you enjoy an album that contains a variety of music styles and a plethora of catchy tunes, Starboy is the album for you.