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The Weeknd’s “Starboy” Reviewed


People whose opinions I respect a great deal consider the former homeless, drugged up mix and match of Lana Del Rey and Drake plus state of the art pop genius Max Martin and r&b infected modern soul genes from all points south of Toronto, Abel Tesfaye aka The Weeknd, an aimless EDM product. Me, I think he is awesome. It took Abel awhile to settle on stage but he is getting there and on record, if you love Drake, you’ll love The Weeknd, the face of modern r&b.

Starboy, his third album, dropped today and it is a near perfect concoction. The title is a reference to David Bowie and what they have in common isn’t  Max Martin and Savan Kotecha, who are all over this thing, but plastic soul and Daft Punk who bracket the sucker with two doozies. Like Bowie, there is something unsettled and unhappy about Abel, and fame is both a shield and a weapon for both of them, Bowie circa David Live. Around the halfway mark The Weeknd searches out  Lana Del Rey for a lovely little interlude and follows her with a terrific ballad featuring one Kendrick Lamar. Nothing else matches the Daft Punks and the other two,  those four songs are everything art pop should be, everything both plastic, rubbery, yet three dimensional you dream for pop 2016, everything is clearly where it’s at in modern pop and the Weeknd’s Drake goes soul will still sell buckets. “Attention” is one of those songs you dream about hearing on the radio, a beautiful sex as romance as breakup -all ache and slow jam beauty and like this 66 minute album, there is so much, it is just waiting for the Weeknd to point it out.

The problem for nonbelievers is the perception that the Weeknd is a manufactured thing, and I guess what he is is an original who was sculpted very successfully for a pop audience. The songs, the ideas, the vision of the Weeknd as a depressive, sex driven, druggy on the streets of Toronto, sleeping at friends houses while he fucks their wives is standard issue, and they are his, but the sound made around it,  dubby drums, soulful strings, depressive sounds, are not his: they are a variant on Drake without rap and ego (much) and that’s how they work. But because they are essentially shallow, because a song like his masterpiece “The Hills”, is genuinely cold and icey, pointless and directed, he can’t defend himself against the doubters. But, after preferring Miguel for the longest time, I’ll take The Weeknd today. He won’t make your life but he may make your Christmas.

Grade: B+


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