The Weeknd entered the music industry by originally releasing free songs on YouTube in 2010. However, most people were not introduced to Abel Tesfaye until the release of his first studio album, Trilogy, which is a compilation of his pre-released singles from YouTube. The Weeknd’s burst into mainstream pop began with his popular single “Can’t Feel My Face,” which Rolling Stone named the best song of 2015. The success of his catchy, upbeat single paved the way for his second studio album, Beauty Behind the Madness, to sell two million copies in the United States alone. His rise into mainstream R&B culture created high expectations for The Weeknd while recording his third studio album, Starboy.
With high anticipation, Starboy was released on November 25. The album — which includes collaborations with indie singer Lana Del Ray, electronic group Daft Punk, and rappers Kendrick Lamar and Future — does not lack diversity. Fans were satisfied with the surprise release of the album’s first single, “Starboy,” on September 22. Echoing The Weeknd rise to fame, “Starboy” contains themes of extravagance and, as popular in hip-hop culture, uses cars and money to brag about his success. Although changing from soft, smooth melodies to high-energy, electronic beats, Starboy does not lack the common themes of drugs and women The Weeknd is known for.
The album begins with the hit single “Starboy,” a collaboration with Daft Punk, and is followed by “Party Monster” and “False Alarm,” which are all about, unsurprisingly, his love for partying. These three songs set the tone for the remainder of the album as The Weeknd repeatedly drops lines hinting at how his fans have shaped him. “Look what you’ve done,” The Weeknd repeats in “Starboy,” implying that his fans have turned him into the “Starboy” he now is.
“Reminder,” one of the best tracks on the album, continues The Weeknd’s attitudes toward his appropriation into mainstream music. “I just won a new award for a kids show talking ’bout a face numbing from a bag of blow,” references his most successful hit “Can’t Feel My Face,” which won a Teen Choice Award although the song is about being high on cocaine.
The back-to-back tracks “Rockin’” and “Secrets” both have contagious rhythm, yet become repetitive after listening to one after the other because of their similar structure and sound.
Del Rey makes her appearance as “Stargirl,” which sounds similar to “Prisoner,” a track that Del Rey was featured on in Beauty Behind the Madness. This track provides a transition between the garage beat, pop songs at the beginning, to the more expected R&B rhythms that close out the album. Although a collaboration with Lamar had potential, the best part were Lamar’s verses.
The most R&B tracks — “Attention,” “Nothing Without You,” and “Die For You” — are a more recent twist on The Weeknd’s roots established in his first album, Trilogy.
After The Weeknd and Future’s success with the spring hit, “Low Life,” their newest collaboration, “All I Know,” replaces the track many have been listening to for months, with a similar idea and mood but newer words and melodies.
Ending on a high note, “I Feel It Coming” brings the album full circle with the second track featuring Daft Punk, just like in “Starboy.” The sunny, upbeat tracks bring the beginning of possibly a new direction in The Weeknd’s sound music career. He has pointed in a more mainstream, pop direction which may leave devoted fans disappointed, but appeals to a larger audience.
Best Tracks: “Reminder,” “Starboy,” “Party Monster,” “I Feel It Coming,” and “All I Know”