Abel Tesfaye, AKA The Weeknd, has just released his latest music video for the new single off of the upcoming album. 'Starboy' brings us a lot of hope.
As usual for The Weeknd, and with the help of Daft Punk and Director Grant Singer, you can hear and see some strong Michael Jackson influences. The opening scene shows the new Starboy Abel murdering the former Abelxo Abel and then continue on through his home with a neon pink cross to destroy all remnants of his previous successes (albums Kissland and Beauty Behind the Madness).
Starboy is a Jamaican slang term made popular in Mavado's 2010 single 'Star Bwoy' and as you can guess, it is used to describe someone who is cool af. But, I think some may have listened to the new single perhaps thinking it is about his newfound ego/fame and mistook "I'm a mother-fucking starboy" as a proud and unapologetic boast. After watching the visuals you can see that that presupposition is far from the real meaning. Could Starboy be a dark and sarcastic commentary on his recent rise to fame? I think yes.
Before Starboy, there have been two quite distinguishable The Weeknds.
In the beginning, The Weeknd was a complete underground unknown Canadian who was influencing the entire genre of RnB/pop. I would argue that 2011 was indeed his greatest year musically. He released three of the greatest mixtapes: House of Balloons, Thursday and Echoes of Silence in July, August and December respectively and his sound was identifiably and unapologetically dark and unfiltered. The year was culminated in the release of Trilogy, which combined all three mixtapes in 2012.
After gaining recognition from music greats and garnering more and more popularity, Kissland and Beauty Behind the Madness were released in 2014 and 2015 and a new Weeknd evolved. This new evolution moved towards a more filtered, predictable and commercial pop. Don't get me wrong, Beauty was a great album, it was tenth best-selling album of 2015 after all.
I should say though, obviously an artist's sound changes over time and no artist should really ever stay the same throughout their career. So it is pointless for me to write about wanting 'more of the old' Weeknd. However, if House of Balloons changed your personal perception of and appreciation for pop music (like it did mine), then the 2015 accoladed album was just not enough and it's more commercialised version of The Weeknd just didn't cut it. Beauty was polished, featured all of the 'right' artists and had just enough grit to give it depth. Yet, when you look at the depth of themes and musicality presented in House of Balloons, there is no competition.
In saying all that, I think Starboy might be the beginning of the third phase of The Weeknd's persona. One that revisits his dark beginnings found in Trilogy but also employs a more purposeful pop sound. And from his dark sarcasm in the new single, I think the new Abel is one that is critical of the fame he has achieved and openly cynical of how commercialisation can change someone's sound.
On a side note: that cat-turned-panther is dope.