If Beauty Behind the Madness was Weeknd’s Avengers Assemble then Starboy is definitely his Age of Ultron. If you thought the writing team behind his debut was an all-star cast then just you wait. Starboy boasts a veritable coach load of all-star collaborators, with a collective twenty two Grammy awards between them. I counted.
Starboy may be the years greatest R&B album and possibly the best dance record since Random Access Memories.
We’ve already talked about the titular single ‘Starboy’ and generally felt it was a real grower. My initial reaction was a shrug. The song wasn’t really anthemic in the ways it should have been. However, on repeat listens, the detail and quirks of production, as well as the depth of the song writing, elevated it to among Weeknd’s best work.
The same cannot be said of the rest of the album. These tracks aren’t slow burners, they are more obvious. Less sophisticated, but more enjoyable. You get exactly how a song is going to go by the first few bars. However, in an age of over-complication I for one appreciate the more traditional pop structures.
In contrast, the style is a lot more varied this time round. It surprised me that given the bumper crop of co-writers, Kevin Parker didn’t feature, because in places this is very, very Impalaesque. ‘Secrets’ would have slotted easily onto Tame Impala’s Currents, and ‘A Lonely Night’ even more so. ‘False Alarm’ is a jungle banger, and yeah it sounds terrible at first. It’s so far left of everything else going on here, but in the end it’s a welcome burst of energy.
That sci-fi metaphor wasn’t just me fucking about either. This is basically a space epic put to music. It’s Hip-Hop Intergalactica. This is no truer than on ‘Party Monster’ which sounds like a B-Movie saucer landing at a turf dancing contest. There aren’t any aliens but Lana Del Rey does pop up (no offence Lana!) to wrap her psychedelic croon around the final bars, before the song ends on an extended coda where the refrain is looped and Scooterified for no goddamn reason. This mish-mash produces moments of sheer inventive brio.
The only strike Weeknd gets on his report card is his occasionally lacklustre song writing. This is surprising given the depth of the lead single. However, the usual topics of girls, coke, cars, coke, coke & coke come and go and leave us feeling little in the way of satisfaction. Some of these rhymes are just sort of lame.
“Ooh, she mine, ooh girl, bump a line
Angelina, lips like Angelina
Like Selena, ass shaped like Selena”
This obviously implies the girl literally looks like an arse which is a pretty horrific idea altogether, unless you particularly love the work of David Cronenberg.
Still when you can end your album on a funk-infused muzak track with Daft Punk, you’re onto a winner. Honestly this is one of the most solid albums released in a long long time, and one that will appeal to a wide range of people. It dips into different styles and cobbles them together into something of real quality and invention. Comparisons to Thriller aren’t totally out of the question…