By Simran Dosanjh
Abel Tesfaye, better known as The Weeknd, recently released his third studio album Starboy. He is finally moving toward the direction he’s been trying to steer in since the release of his last album, as he leans away from the image of an obscene and enigmatic figure to a more free-spirited type artist. It’s no secret that Michael Jackson is a huge inspiration to Tesfaye, but the appreciation he has for the prince of pop is especially seen through this M.J. influenced album while he still tries to hold on to some part of himself. Simply put, the album is in a flux between genres and musical time periods.
This album was not what I was expecting it to be. Tesfaye did drop a lot of hints that insinuated Starboy was going to be different than his previous work. Especially through the Starboy music video where we see the new The Weeknd killing off his old self, suggesting that the old him no longer exists. He also cut his “crown,” a big part of his identity as The Weeknd. Although I did see it coming, I was secretly hoping for his work to be the same because that’s the type of music that made me a fan. I enjoy his music because of his dark and cryptic aesthetic, where he romanticizes drugs and sex, clearly seen in previous albums such as Kissland and Trilogy.
In spite of that, I have to say that Starboy is definitely The Weeknd’s most original album. It features a new vibe caught between pop and R&B that most artists don’t attempt nowadays. I definitely recommend this album to all fans, simply because Tesfaye never disappoints. His music is always the work of a pure artistic genius. His music, as well as himself, always brings with it this form of irresistibility. The Weeknd took a big risk releasing Starboy because most, if not all, of The Weeknd’s fanbase exists because of his previous work that consists of narcotized slow jams. Coming out with an album so different from the rest of his work was an act of bravery, and although I may be nostalgic for the old Abel, I appreciate his work. Some album highlights include Reminder, Sidewalks and Party Monster. But if you’re digging the M.J. vibes, I’d suggest listening to False Alarm, Rockin’ and Secrets.
Art is about evolving and approaching new techniques in order to see the bigger picture from unfamiliar perspectives. The Weeknd did something with Starboy that other artists are afraid to, he challenged himself and his art. He wanted to try something new and did so without fear of criticism or losing any of his fanbase with this new melodic aura, and that is something he should be commended for. Taking bold steps and the ability to create music without fear of repercussions is one thing Tesfaye has proved he has in common with M.J.
The Rolling Stone published an article last year stating, “Abel Tesfaye used to be a drugged-out R&B mystery man. Now he wants to be your Michael Jackson”. This was shortly after the release of Beauty Behind the Madness, where songs such as “Can’t feel my Face,” helped the artist segue out of his old music into something fresh. In fact, he even mentioned to The New York times that he felt as if kids nowadays don’t have a Prince or Whitney, suggesting that they need some sort of lyrical saviour for their generation. Is The Weeknd the answer?