Artist: The Weeknd
Album: Starboy (£11.99 on iTunes)
Record Label(s): XO/Republic
Every generation grows up with its own definite sound of music which will be forever associated with them. Over the last couple of years, the music industry has experienced a rise in popularity of ‘Alternative R&B’, described by Barry Walters (Spin) as an “exchange between EDM, rock, hip hop and R&B commercial avant-garde”.
One of the musicians responsible for this is The Weeknd, whose somewhat alternative approach towards the genre has helped him become the successful mainstream artist that he is today.
The Weeknd’s third studio album Starboy has that definite sound. A sound which takes you on a ‘trip’ and makes you question what is happening as you listen, suggesting you are under the influence of some sort of substance or recreational drug.
Some of his fan base believe he named his record XO in reference to his recreational use of ecstasy and OxyContin. His musical influence is clear in the album too; elements of Michael Jackson and R. Kelly are present in not just the sound, but also in his voice which makes it bizarrely unique.
This theme is present in his earlier work, yet Starboy has somehow managed to create a completely different atmosphere, suggesting this ‘trip’ is experiencing a change in direction.
The lead single of the same name starts with a fairly relaxed and chilled vibe, which invites you in. However, the more you listen to this track, the more you realise there is a deeper meaning behind the song.
Firstly, the term ‘star boy’ is Jamaican slang for someone who is deemed cool or important, as stated by Keith Richards in his autobiography after hearing the term there in 1972. Additionally, the lyrics are significantly darker when compared to songs on his previous studio albums; “I’m tryna put you in the worst mood, ah”; “I switch up my cup, I kill any pain”.
This change of tone seems to demonstrate a side of The Weeknd’s artistry he’s been holding back until he was able to establish a strong mainstream audience for his music.
Looking back to his earlier music featured in his mixtapes, the darker meanings within the lyrics suggests that the music on the Starboy album is representative of who The Weeknd really is; unedited and uncensored. That these lyrics allow him to express himself and speak his mind, regardless of how much overcast there maybe.
This is implied somewhat by the album cover and the music video for the lead single, in which The Weeknd’s dreads are cut off, symbolising a new chapter for his music. Although, it is tempting to ask why his earlier studio albums weren’t like this. Was he scared he wouldn’t be as successful as he is now?
Yes. The lyrics and themes of the album are more honest, and seem to have been influenced by his personal thoughts and experiences suggesting his music is beginning to mature.
Regardless, I would recommend buying this album as it not only has the ability to draw you in and share the journey that The Weeknd is going on, but it has the ability to make you question what is going on and how it has gotten to this point.
Explicit and edgy to paraphrase.