The Weeknd: Starboy

13 Feb

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A return to the themes of his previous work, Starboy is more of a refinement of The Weeknd’s aesthetic than a progression. It’s like being stuck in the head of a party animal after a bad night — albeit if his inner monologue was in the form of song. Guest stars include Daft Punk, Lana Del Rey, Kendrick Lamar and Future.

‘Party Monster’ is a plaintive cry, this time from a lothario who loses himself in meaningless one night stands while pining for the attentions of his lost love. ‘False Alarm’ signals a turn into more ominous territory with a heavier focus on EDM-like beats and processed vocals. It ends with a wordless female vocal that segues into ‘Reminder’, in which our hero tries to remind his love that he has always been honest about what kind of man he is (i.e. one who drinks and sleeps around).‘Rockin’ is more of an up-tempo dance number about the price of fame and relationships.

Around this point, individual songs start to blur into each other. If there is a flaw, it is a sady common one. The fact is, Starboy is about eight tracks too long, and the recurring themes of rejection and self-loathing start to feel repetitive.

The second half of the album picks up considerably. Songs like ‘Secrets’, ‘Love to Lay’, ‘A Lonely Night’ and ‘Nothing Without You’ counter the dour, repetitive subject matter with stronger melodies and dance beats. The vague disjunction between the production and theme adds a certain ironic bite, while also softening the darkness of the lyrics.

Powered by a strong beat and an appealing vocal, ‘Secrets’ is a catchy, danceable ballad that will probably end up on a few wedding playlists. ’Love to Lay’ and ‘A Lonely Night’ are built on similar lines but push the bass to the fore (the latter even includes an EDM break during the bridge). The lyrical themes remain the same: He’s a bad boy; she’s a bad girl, yadayada.

There are plenty of good songs, but such a long track list demands a level of ambition and eclecticism that is somewhat lacking. If you are a fan, you will be satisfied, but casual listeners are probably better cherry-picking songs on iTunes.

 

By Tim George

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