It is so rare nowadays when an artist can release a follow-up album that is just as good, if not better than their first album. However, R&B innovator Abel Tesfaye, better known by his stage name, The Weeknd, did this last year with his GRAMMY-award winning album, Beauty Behind the Madness. There were 4 hits from that album, “The Hills,” “Can’t Feel My Face,” “Often,” and “Acquainted,” that stood out from the album and had both critics and listeners reeling for over a year. After the success of the Beauty, many people were curious about what the next album from him would sound like. Nearly a year later, the Weekend returned with a new haircut and a new double album called Starboy.
Starboy has two parts to it: the light, exciting time within a party starting and the dark, shallow time of a party ending. Even though the album is meant to be broken in half, it is cohesive and transitions perfectly into itself. Features from Kendrick Lamar, Lana Del Rey, and Future are the only artist collaborations on this 18-track album. When looking at the album’s production, The Weeknd collaborated with many music industry heavy-hitters like Max Martin, Diplo, Daft Punk, Doc McKinney, and Metro Boomin, to write and produce many songs on the album. On this multi-faceted work, you get three huge layers to it: a string of radio-friendly songs, unexpected EDM packed bangers, and classic silky R&B jams that we can count on from The Weeknd.
The radio is a large part of pop music today. With tens of millions of listeners at any time and their constant playing of the top 25 songs on the charts, it can be hard at times for an artist to break into their cycle. The Weeknd, however, has many songs that will enter the cycle. French production duo Daft-Punk produced two songs with The Weeknd, the album’s title track and lead single ‘Starboy” and the funky electro song “I Feel It Coming” that act as bookends starting and ending the party. “Secrets” is a club-ready, post-disco jam that is full of delicate synths and thoughtful lyrics. “Sidewalks” inversely, is an urban radio-ready jam complete a strong narrative, light west-coast instrumental and a monstrous verse from future rap legend Kendrick Lamar.
The Weeknd ventured into a genre on this album that he has not ventured fully into before: electronic music. Here, producers Max Martin, Diplo and Daft Punk take the front seat with him in creating their brand of electronic excellence. “Rockin,’” “Love to Lay,” and “A Lonely Night,” are incredible, synth-heavy tracks that could be played during your next workout or a house party. Going even further into unmarked territory, Tesfaye made a punk-infused electro smash with Doc McKinney that will bring out your inner angsty teen.
In a word, the music that The Weeknd makes is adventurous. He may branches out into new genres on every album, but he will always find his roots in dangerous yet alluring R&B songs that resound with everyone. He divulges deeper into the broad field of R&B with “Reminder,” a slower song laced with rap elements and smooth vocals. Further within these R&B jams, we hear songs like “True Colors” and “Die For You,” two 90s-esque bundles of perfection that show his comfort zone in this risky album. He returns to his trap-R&B vibes from BBTM with “Party Monster,” “Six Feet Under,” and “All I Know,” all amazing songs that could easily have been on his last album.
Even though The Weeknd is an R&B singer with indie roots, he has gained a large following that can make him seem too popular and mainstream for his original fans. To combat losing those fans that have been with him since his first album Trilogy, he has vowed to remain innovate and true to himself. On Starboy, he does just that. With immaculate production, honest lyrics, and heavy but memorable beats, all mixed together with his instantly recognizable vocals, The Weeknd has made one of the best albums this year.