By Tanner Bidish, Contributor
Key Tracks: “Starboy,” “Reminder,” “Sidewalks”
From mixtapes to a breakthrough Grammy winning album, Able Tesfaye – a.k.a. The Weeknd – is indisputably talented. Last year’s Beauty Behind the Madness was met with critical acclaim, created many new fans and left them wondering what’s next; the answer came sooner than expected with his third studio album Starboy. The latest album showcases Tesfaye’s seductive falsetto just as his previous works did, but the development feels rushed. Starboy spans 18 tracks, and many of them feel repetitive or forgettable when pitted against the record’s stronger moments.
Starboy begins with its title track, a number that quickly reminds listeners why they loved The Weeknd in the first place. The irresistible EDM beats from Daft Punk are a great match to Tesfaye’s remarkable voice, and the track feels self-reflective with Tesfaye taking a look at his own success. “Party Monster” returns to The Weeknd’s classic hedonistic themes, and “False Alarm” reverberates with electric energy. “Reminder” is another tight jam that reflects on Tesfaye’s recent success. “Goddamn, bitch, I am not a Teen Choice,” he melodically declares. The verses are loaded and come quickly, but are played off almost effortlessly in Tesfaye’s voice. This is probably Starboy’s brightest moment. The majority of tracks after here begin to feel like filler.
“Rockin’” and “Secrets” set a fun tone, yet just become forgettable pop filler numbers. “Stargirl Interlude” changes the pace by featuring Lana Del Rey and cutting under the two-minute mark. Following that is “Sidewalks,” a funky, honest, lyrically and musically articulate track filled with tasteful guitar lines that brings the track to life. The Kendrick Lamar feature is his usual tight, fast paced rap verses, which add some appreciated vocal variety. After that, Starboy goes back to repetitive beats with less than fleshed out schemes. The second half of the record is underwhelming and disappointing from an artist as clearly talented as The Weeknd. “All I Know” has a feature from Future that picks up the momentum towards the end of Starboy, and “I Feel It Coming” sees a playful return of Daft Punk.
Having features being an album’s highlight moments is a hallmark of mediocre work, but The Weeknd is an artist that can be stronger than that. Starboy could’ve used more time in development to trim off the filler. There are tracks here that fans will love, as well as an equal amount of tracks you won’t remember the name of.