Comic books to retro hooks: 5 things we learned from The Weeknd’s Starboy album

Canadian RB mysterioso The Weeknd has lifted the shroud from his Starboy album.

After he tinkered around with Daft Punk this summer and shed his trademark dreadlocks a couple of months ago, the Toronto performer’s third studio album dropped Friday.

The 18-track release comes amid the sort of hype reserved for only the biggest international stars. The Weeknd, born Abel Tesfaye, has been teasing listeners for months with two music videos, a 12-minute short film called Mania and a trickle of songs to whet fans’ appetites.

But he brought it all to a crescendo Thursday night with a fans-only listening party at Toronto’s Pinewood Studio, a space usually reserved for sprawling movie productions, and a rare interview with Apple Music DJ Zane Lowe.

With Starboy now available to buy and stream on music services, here are five things to know about the project.

Star powered

Not like The Weeknd needed marquee performers to give his latest album traction, but there’s plenty of them here anyway. Robotic duo Daft Punk lend their hands to the opening and closing tracks (lead single Starboy and the funky I Feel It Coming), while Lana Del Ray drifts through the fleeting Stargirl Interlude.

Others making appearances include rapper Future (All I Know) and Kendrick Lamar (Sidewalks) performing alongside Michigan singer Daniel Wilson, whose smooth voice had listeners initially thinking he was U.K. crooner Sam Smith.

The 56th Annual GRAMMY Awards - Show

Thomas Bangalter, left, and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo of Daft Punk make appearances on two songs from Tesfaye’s latest album. (Matt Sayles/Invision/Associated Press)

Getting personal

The lyrics might offer added insight into the artist, since Tesfaye is a co-writer on all eighteen tracks and it’s a rare gem these days when massive pop stars can also pen their own words. One line in Sidewalks makes some wonder who he could be referring to when he sings this: “Too many people think they made me. Well if they really made me then replace me.”

Global Citizen Festival 2016

Acclaimed musician Kendrick Lamar appears on Tesfaye’s song Sidewalks. (Kathy Kmonicek/The Associated Press)

Still sombre

Several tracks are certain to ignite dance floors, but Tesfaye hasn’t lost his touch for the debauchery and depressing lyrics that shaped his early career. In one of his darkest songs yet, Ordinary Life has the singer (or the Starboy character) coming to terms with fortune and fame — and how the lifestyle might destroy him.

Telling the story of a suicidal sexual encounter behind the wheel of his car, he references the death of David Carradine before reaching even further back. He sings: “Like I’m James Dean, I’mma die when I’m young.”


The Weeknd performed Starboy at the 2016 American Music Awards in Los Angeles Nov. 20. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

Retro sounds are in

While he doesn’t pick a particular decade, a couple of songs are fused with the spirit of Throwback Thursday. The funky Secrets borrows from the chorus of the Romantics’ 1984 rock hit Talking in Your Sleep and fuses it with a sample of Pale Shelter a 1982 track from Tears for Fears. The song Rockin’ carries a bouncy beat that would fit perfectly in an early 1990s house mix.

Not the end

Beyond a global tour set to kick off in the new year, The Weeknd promises more from his Starboy alter ego. In the interview with Lowe on Apple Music, which aired Thursday night, he said a Starboy comic book is in the works and he’d like to pitch it to Marvel or DC Comics. 

Article source: