The Weeknd has lost his art-school charm. Now he is rich, and he has dated a Victoria Secret Model. You can actually hear it in his voice, how mainstream-hot his girlfriend is. Starboy is Abel’s third studio album, released November 24th,, and let me tell you, it’s not as stellar as the rave reviews would have you believe. I walked away from my first listen feeling jipped, like you phoned it in to be honest, Abel.
The song titles are weak- I once told someone you were a fringe-poet writing the soundtrack to my sexual awakening- and now I’m in bed clicking on a track called “Ordinary Life”“? And then, when the song starts, I get this winner: “Like James Dean, I’m gonna die when I’m young.” C’mon man. You’re better than this- I once considered smoking a black cig on a ridge overlooking L.A. because of you. You can’t *keep* selling out like this. What will I have left?
To make matters worse, you debut four of the songs from Starboy (released on the XO label) in a “movie”, called Mania. Spoiler alert: “Party Monster,” one of the tracks I genuinely like from the album, is reimagined visually as a 6ft-model-turned-jaguar who saves Abel from her sketchy jealous ex in the men’s restroom by slashing him to death. The blood spattered across the bathroom is so laughably cheesy that I begin to feel the same kind of brooding angst that drew me to your first EP, which is to say, when I was acutely miserable without even having heard of an I-9 form.
Going back to tracks I will shamelessly play again, “False Alarm” is fun as hell with a creepy outro to top it off. This is one song that successfully reclaims The Weeknd’s ability to exist outside of genre conventions. Let’s be real, Abel, that’s all I really wanted out of Starboy. I wanted you to give me something exclusive, something alternative. If you can’t be unique, at least pull a Bon Iver and go robo-gritty, even if you are stealing the whole premise of Kanye’s 808s & Heartbreak (side note: send prayers?)
The problem is everyone has heard the sprawling vibrations ofTrilogy now, and everyone knows Lana Del Rey is shit live, but still loves her anyway (she’s up to her usual genuinely likable moan-breathing in a “Stargirl Interlude” feature). We’ve all tried on a Coachella flower headband. You should have gone underground, but instead you filmed a short film that’s mostly you driving a sports car to a club. I mean, Abel, buddy, it’s about to be the coldest months of the year, and you deliver me “I Feel It Coming,” a sticky sweet Daft Punk collab that my fanny-pack-owning mother would totally turn up in the car? I needed edge, fog, blinding showers of sparks at the end of a Metallica concert, but you gave me a formulaic redo of what 15-year-old me would have eaten up. I didn’t even know what alcohol being thrown back up tasted like then- of course I would have thought this shit was tight.
That “drip” sound-effect in “True Colors” makes me feel like I’m being subjected to a form of water torture, slowly damaged over 18 tracks by constant reminders of your happiness and amassed wealth. We get it, you party with the Kardashians now. Nothing brings this home better than a song literally called “Reminder” where you declare, “Godamn b**** I am not a Teen Choice…// All these R&B n****s be so lame” promptly followed by your own quick set of “brahp brahp!” gun-shot, hype man noises.
I might be able to put this album on during a chill sesh, but it’s not heavy enough to get me through a late night drive, and it’s way too fast to try to make out to. What good is this album, to me, college white girl with a copy of Sylvia Plath’s Bell Jar and a head full of nihilism? This album is made to be played as Bella Hadid struts down the VS runway, useless wings flapping behind her. Abel, I resent that your music hasn’t gotten cooler. Because now I can’t put it on at a pregame and pretend I have either.
By Jessica Moog on Nov. 29, 2016, 12:49 a.m.