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“Starboy” Is Simply Satisfying

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Last year, we saw outstanding releases from Beyonce, Frank Ocean, Young Thug, Rihanna, Kanye West, Bon Iver, and plenty of others. It’s a bold move to release an album after so many critical and commercial successes, but The Weeknd took a chance when he released his latest album “Starboy,” and it’s hard to tell how that chance is turning out.

Although fans seem to be enjoying “Starboy,” critics have complained that the album is too long at 68 minutes, and that it has no order or unifying theme, unlike The Weeknd’s previous album, “Beauty Behind the Madness,” which painted him as some sort of depressed robot. Daft Punk lends a nice touch to a couple of songs on the album, but the rest, according to critics, are uninspired pop.

Now, I have never been much of a fan of The Weeknd. I find his soulless vocals uninspiring and his lyrics meaningless, but I thoroughly enjoyed most of “Starboy.” It’s not exactly an album I’ll cherish for the rest of my life, but it simply sounds good, and the visuals included are outstanding. The contributions from Lana del Rey, Future and Kendrick Lamar don’t hurt, either.

The album’s title track is a standout. Exploring his rise from Canadian obscurity to music sensation, The Weeknd uses his signature dark details to craft a danceable tune that conjures images of late nights, a lonely superstar and large, empty houses. As the first song on the album, “Starboy” is one of the Daft Punk bookends, the other being the radically different “I Feel It Coming,” which is the album’s last track.

Another notable track, “Sidewalks,” features Kendrick Lamar. Like “Starboy,” this song is about the journey from humble beginnings to fame. Something about this song reminds me of easy-listening tunes from the earlier years, and Kendrick’s verse is a wonderful contribution.

That said, “Secrets” is almost definitely my favorite song on the album. Apparently about understanding the female thought process, “Secrets” was originally intended to be a country song, but it eventually grew into a more new wave sound. It sounds adorable and is relatively upbeat, in spite of its slightly creepy lyrics. The vocals are lower than usual, which is a touch I particularly enjoy because I don’t love tenor voices.

“Die for You” is supposedly about The Weeknd’s ex-girlfriend, Bella Hadid, and the difficulties of breaking up with someone who is still important to him. As the only song that exposes his more emotional side, it’s a welcome change from the villainy of the rest of the album.

The latter bookend “I Feel It Coming” is likewise unique. As opposed to “Starboy,” it is positive and loving and, like “Die For You,” it shows that The Weeknd can be unexpectedly romantic and heartfelt. Fans have noticed some Michael Jackson influence, and Daft Punk applies their signature sugar in stunning form. This is another of my favorites.

The only song that stood out to me as notably bad is “False Alarm,” which is about a woman caught up in a flashy lifestyle. Lyrically, it is questionable, and musically, it just isn’t good. There is also a video release, “M A N I A,” which features several songs off of the album and is a visual treat.

Overall, “Starboy” is a perfectly likable, accessible album. It may not be a stunning departure from The Weeknd’s older music, but not every release has to be a genre-defining blockbuster; sometimes a good song is just that.

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The arts, cultural and news magazine of Henry W. Grady High School in Atlanta, Georgia