“Starboy” Blends Music and Film for a Synth Pop Joyride

 Top Track: “Starboy” and “False Alarm”

Grade: B-

Verdict: The Weeknd has found his niche in the music industry and works it well, making the album a confident play. It drags on a little long, with well over an hour of play time and loses steam at the end. There are times, when Daft Punk’s influence on this album takes over the tracks and we lose some of The Weeknd’s iconic voice. The artistic direction is phenomenal, though, mixing pop and R&B and taking both in a much darker direction than most other artists. The Weeknd has stayed true to his style, while still pushing the boundaries.

While we were all chowing down on Thanksgiving, Abel Tesfaye, better known by his stage name The Weeknd, dropped his third studio album “Starboy.” Hopefully you didn’t watch the videos during dinner, because the new album takes The Weeknd on a gritty (and bloody) joyride through town – gory enough to scare off an appetite.

Kicking off with “Starboy,” the album’s title track, The Weeknd establishes the beginning of his story. The R&B synth single sets the mood for the album, with backup from Daft Punk and a self-confident set of lyrics calling out The Weeknd’s critics.

While the song and the lyrics work well together by themselves, the message behind the song is emphasized in the music video, a dark drama in which The Weeknd literally murders his old image, a nice complement to the lyric “Talking ‘bout me but I don’t see the shade.” The Weeknd then dons a leather jacket and blinged-out cross and walks past all of his platinum records before smashing them.

The Weeknd then starts his new life as a bank robber in “False Alarm.” The song shows off another new style for The Weeknd, stretching his vocals and kicking up the beat for a fast-paced shootout in which (spoiler alert) The Weeknd dies at the end, foreshadowing perhaps for the next time he reinvents his image. The music video blends a “Hardcore Henry” style shoot with the aesthetics of a first-person shooter to ramp up the excitement on the album.

The album manages to stick to the pace until “Six Feet Under,” a song that can’t quite muster the same power as “Sidewalks,” which features Kendrick Lamar and takes a jab at Drake and other artists who claim to have made The Weeknd. “Six Feet Under” sets a new, softer tone for the album, which begins to drag on until Daft Punk rescues it with a final bang in “I Feel it Coming.”

Along with the album, The Weeknd released a 12 minute short film entitled “Mania.” The film does an excellent job of capturing the album’s story and sound as a whole, but doesn’t lag at the end like the actual album does. At first, the transition between songs in the film is a little disjointed, adding to the manic effect that the film’s title suggests and creating an overall unnerving experience. The uncomfortableness, however, meshes well with the songs and overall mood of the film. Plus, The Weeknd has a pet jaguar.  

 

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