Starboy as an album title gives a significant and deliberate atmosphere of self-acclamation before even one song has been listened to. Jumping straight into the first single and title track, produced excellently by Daft Punk – the self-acclamation previously mentioned takes shape. Using a profoundly catchy flow the Weeknd is brash about being in his own lane and having ‘no competition’. The lyrics aren’t anything extraordinary but, matched with a video that shows off a new-look Abel Tesfaye, it’s an exciting start to the LP and gives an expectation that risk-taking and innovation is to come.
Uncertainties arise rather quickly, however. Back-to-back singles ‘Party Monster’, dark and trap flavoured and ‘False Alarm’, grating and over produced, are respectively decent and not-so-decent. ‘Reminder’ is great; the bassline and hook are infectious on this track but it’s quality is severely tainted by the songs surrounding it and struggle bars from the Weeknd, see ‘all these RnB n*****s be so lame, got a sweet Asian chick she go low mane’ for one example.
The standard ascends, at this point, to a level that is not bettered until the albums closing tune. The Weeknd proceeds for the next 13 tracks to dip his toes into several different sounds without exploring any of them to a worthwhile depth. Doing his best impression of a 21st century politician Abel flip-flops incessantly. It is impossible to listen to ‘Rockin’ without thinking it’s a throwaway from ‘Settle’ – Disclosure’s debut LP. It’s stranger still that he featured on the house duo’s latest cut. The song is the most blatant occurrence but it does not stand on its own, the main bulk of Star Boy is riddled with commercialised covers of sounds that have not only been done before but done to superior level. On top of this, even though not much is to be excepted lyrically, the recycling of flows when he is both singing and rapping is alarming to say the least. This is a lacklustre attempt at what was billed to be a concept album and a rebooting of the artist’s sound and look.
Other than Daft Punk the credited features are utilised poorly. Future becomes boring rather quickly and Kendrick’s verse is by his lofty standards – average. Sam Smith appears with K Dot on ‘Sidewalks’ and puts in a better vocal performance in his cameo than The Weeknd manages in the entirety of his efforts.
The Toronto-born singer was, in all fairness, up against it. RnB has been pushed forward by the likes of Anderson Paak, Bryson Tiller and Beyoncé. The mediocrity of Star Boy and its fillers was never going to stand up to the likes of ‘Malibu’ and its consistency in direction and quality.