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Review: The Weeknd’s ‘Starboy’ – a genre binding rise to the top

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Abel Tesfaye, most commonly known as The Weeknd, captured the world’s attention with his melodic, Michael Jackson-esque vocals and vibrant RnB/pop anthems in his 2015 project ‘Beauty Behind The Madness’. The Weeknd has developed a passionate fanbase from 2011 with the release of three mixtapes followed by his first studio album, but it is his recent release ‘Starboy’ that has fans and critics raving over the Canadian’s talents; deservedly promoting him to a commercialised, headlining artist.

The perfect balance of funky beats, angelic melodies and dark anecdotal lyrics combine to create an album belonging to a number of genres.

It will be evident to many Weeknd fans that ‘Starboy’ takes a different route from his past projects, with the new work focusing more on pulsating 80s-style beats rather than solely the slow, dark and eerie vibes of his mixtapes. In ‘Starboy’, Tesfaye masterfully compliments his unique vocal range with funky rhythms in popular anthems such as ‘Party Monster’, ‘Rockin’ and the album-titled single ‘Starboy’ which instantly sets the electro-pop vibe from track one. In contrast to the rumbling base of these hits, Tesfaye fills the rest eighteen songs with his more traditionally relaxing jams. Songs such as ‘Attention’ and ‘All I Know’ show how the calm music and distorted beats divert the listener’s attention towards the soothing lyrics, which are often infused with vivid sexual references or Tesfaye’s drug-related past. The perfect balance of funky beats, angelic melodies and dark anecdotal lyrics combine to create an album belonging to a number of genres, whether it be pop, RnB, funk or hip hop.

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The Weeknd at the 2016 AMAs. Image: Disney ABC Television Group/Flickr

The wide variety of sounds ‘Starboy’ offers is evident just from looking at the collaborators on the tracklist. A dream of working with Daft Punk came true for The Weeknd as they combined to create two pop classics of 2016 – ‘Starboy’ and ‘I Feel It Coming’, with an article in The Independent hailing the latter as potentially being “the best pop song of the year, possibly the decade”. Rap royalty Kendrick Lamar also features on track nine’s ‘Sidewalks’, with The Weeknd referring to Kendrick as a “genius” in a recent interview with Zane Lowe on Beats Radio. Also, knowing Kendrick Lamar wrote, edited and completed his verse within a matter of hours allows the listener to appreciate the track a lot more. In the interview, The Weeknd also speaks of his admiration for Lana Del Rey, who features on ‘Stargirl Interlude’, and talks of their close friendship and musical link they have through their lyrics. The final collaborator is Future, whose deep, monotoned voice works surprisingly well with The Weeknd’s high pitch on ‘Six Feet Under’ and ‘All I Know’.

The features alone prove the level of fame The Weeknd has reached and ‘Starboy’ will do nothing but enhance that reputation.

Although The Weeknd is still climbing the ladder of fame, this album could be the catalyst in his rise to the top. Within the space of a year, his popularity soared dramatically as he has adapted his music to a variety of genres. This album highlights the versatility of The Weeknd as an artist and proves there’s nothing he can’t do in the music industry. The features alone prove the level of fame The Weeknd has reached and ‘Starboy’ will do nothing but enhance that reputation, arguably being the best album of the year. This eighteen-track rollercoaster of bopping drums, meditative interludes and catchy synths is loveable and will entice your musical needs whether you are a fan of The Weeknd or have yet to discover his exclusive style.

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