The Weeknd channels Michael Jackson in “Starboy”

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At the age of 17, Abel Tesfaye dropped out of high school with his best friend LaMar Taylor and left his mother’s home in Toronto, taking only his mattress with him. His mother, Samra, an Ethiopian immigrant who fled to Canada from civil war and drought, sought a better life for her son. Nine years later, Tesfaye, more commonly known as The Weeknd, is a world-renowned alternative R&B artist and has just released his fourth ultra successful album “Starboy” with 32.8 million daily streams on Spotify according to musiccally.com.
The Weeknd would not have gotten this far if he didn’tpossess such a raw talent, creative vision and the element of mystery. For a long time, he allowed his music and his personality to be separate entities. He avoided interviews and performances. The only images available of him were obscure and un-illuminated; he let his music speak for itself.
This is a part of what propelled him so rapidly into stardom. Fans found themselves more interested in a music that was absolutely elusive.
“Starboy,” released Nov. 25, was greatly anticipated by long-time fans because this work has managed to achieve a flawless blend between the old Weeknd and the new.
His first album “Trilogy,” a remastered collection of his first three mixtapes, “House of Balloons,” “Thursday,” and “Echoes of Silence” from 2011, was extremely distinct. It introduced the world to an entirely new sounding music, with new age electronic sounding beats, influences from rock and Tesfaye’s smooth, exotic and almost eerie sounding voice that seemed to float above the tracks in an ambient, atmospheric fashion. The music allotted listeners into the Weeknd’s world of couch-surfing, sly romance and questionable morals.
His music after this became less risky, and the artist began to cross over into radio-hit template, bringing in more pop sounds and a new ambition: to be the next Michael Jackson. After the Pop hit “I Can’t Feel My Face” and others brought him in further to the mainstream, Tesfaye has deemed it now safe to bring back more of his original sound; “Starboy” embodies this notion.
On the album, the song “A Lonely Night” literally sounds like every Michael Jackson song, with a drum beat exactly like the one in “Billie Jean.” The Weeknd had to have at least one token Michael Jackson like song; he loves to do that style and to mix it with his own.
A few other songs are less of this but still huge dance hits. “Rockin’,” “Secrets” and “Love to Lay” are all really upbeat and reminiscent of 80s disco. The tempo significantly slows back to his trademark flow in some of the other tracks, such as “All I Know” with “Future,” “Ordinary Life,” and my personal favorite, “Reminder.”
“Every time you try to forget who I am/ I’ll be right there to remind you again/ you know me,” Tesfaye sings in “Reminder.”
This translates as a direct and personal message to his most genuine fans that know how far he has come and question if he has changed.
Much of the rest of the album is a more diverse range of sounds. “Party Monster” and “Six Feet Under,” a song that contains interpolations from “Low Life,” denote Trap music, while the enthralling collaborations with Daft Punk “I Feel it Coming” and the previously released single “Starboy” are very different. They are both a bit Michael Jackson sounding again but it also carries the infamous funky Daft Punk groove and bright melody.
Before the publication of “Starboy,” the Weeknd released a 12-minute short film featuring five songs from the 18-track album. The film, “Mania,” demonstrates much of his vision for the music and provides a partial visual component to the album.