By Hayden Wright
The Weeknd’s Beauty Behind the Madness was an almost-somber exploration of excess, romance and life in the entertainment industry. On the R&B superstar’s followup, he seems ready to let some light in. With the help of Daft Punk and influences like The Smiths, the Canadian singer, songwriter and producer has given us anything but more of the same. If half of Starboy sounds familiar, a solid half feels completely new, and those parts live harmoniously on the same tracks. The Weeknd successfully tries his hand at Euro-dance, New Wave, rock, and more on his expansive new album.
“Sidewalks” featuring Kendrick Lamar. Absent father figures, mean streets, and Biblical euphemisms—the Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar deliver a funky ode to sidewalks, saying they are life-saving and never lie.
“False Alarm” layers digitally-manipulated vocals to create harmony: The Weeknd sounds like a warm, sexy robot through the verses and bridge. When the chorus picks, up, the song switches into rock mode for an unexpected fist-pumper, complete with wails and a double-timed beat. It’s a fascinating show of range that reminds listeners just how much variety occupies Starboy‘s 18 tracks. The Weeknd warned that the album would be “aggressive,” and here it is.
“Six Feet Under” feels like a dark sequel to Beyonce’s “Six Inch,” the Lemonade track which featured The Weeknd. “She trying to live a life so fancy / She wanna pull up in a Bentley / She ain’t got time for lovin’ / Louis Vuitton her husband / She rather die in lusting / She rather die in the club.” Where he and Bey sang about a working girl who derives some power from her late-night lifestyle, “Six Feet Under” follows a similar character to her inevitable demise.
“Secrets” begins with a coy, baroque vocal that almost recalls Naked Eyes and other pleading New Wave dramatists. With a complex layering of synth and bass lines, “Secrets” is a mid-tempo dance song about duplicity and waning trust in a relationship.
“I Feel it Coming” featuring Daft Punk. The album’s track list is bookended by songs featuring Daft Punk, and their influence is felt throughout Starboy. The title track and lead single signaled a new direction for the Weekend—a Euro electo shift—and “I Feel it Coming” brings that transition to a bright conclusion. Is this the happiest song The Weeknd has ever recorded?