I work with a Josh.
Not all Joshes tell me about music that I ought to give a shot to, but this specific Josh is telling me about music all the time. It’s admirable, in this day and age and having full knowledge of my personality and attitudes that someone should even bother to engage me on the level of “Hey, you should review this”.
So, this is a shout-out to Josh.
Josh, I’ve listened to Starboy by this “The Weeknd” character. And I’ll tell you what… it’s not for me.
The Weeknd is actually from a race of Mer-people, living under the sea. He says that he’s from Toronto, but don’t believe it. I can tell that he’s from the deep blue sea because somewhere around 100% of the time, his vocals sound all blurbly – like he’s under water.
You might say to me: “Oh, Mark. That’s just him using that auto-tune effect that became ubiquitous about 10 years ago. Remember complaining about that 10 years ago?”
“Not so fast,” would be my haughty reply. “It couldn’t be auto-tune, because this is a full decade later and I refuse to believe that people would continue using such a tired-sounding effect for so long – especially given that it sounds like this Weeknd man can actually sing! No, no. This man is from a magical city deep beneath the crashing blue waves of our mother ocean.”
We would probably go back and forth like that for a while, but it’s recently been proven that facts are subjective, so you wouldn’t change my mind.
I’m not really into the vocal style employed by sea-dwellers. As such, this album tired me out fairly quickly. It is a bit of a shame, because there are moments of really great material peppered throughout. Daft Punk lend a hand on some of the more interesting sonic moments (and their influence pervades much of the album even on tracks that don’t credit them). Kendrick Lamar’s guest spot on “Sidewalks” livens up the proceedings substantially (although it’s a bright spot in an otherwise ho-hum track). Lana Del Ray’s cameo is also very lovely.
A handful of the songs have terrific pop choruses, and there are excellent production choices littered throughout the album. By the end, it all gets a little same-y and monotonous to me. Lots of sub-bass, machine gun high hats and fish-vocals. The only song on the record that really sticks with me, from front-to-back is “False Alarm” (posted above). This song moves with a force that the rest of the album doesn’t manage, and I will probably listen to it again from time to time. Super fun.
The other tunes? Probably not going to give them another shot. It’s well-produced material that deserves much of the hype that it’s been getting. Problem is, all of its best elements are allusions to other music. The Daft Punk tracks make me want to listen to Daft Punk. The tracks that reference 80s pop make me want to listen to 80s pop. Kendrick Lamar’s cameo makes me wish that it were a Kendrick Lamar album.
When people – named Josh or otherwise – tell me that they love “Starboy”, I will understand their feelings even while not sharing said feelings. For all of my complaints of monotony, I’m well aware that I can listen to an entire album of a group slamming away in one direction and totally get off on it.
To each his or her own, Josh. May good tidings find the denizens of the sea.