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HomeArts & CultureAlbum review: Starboy is the right timing for The Weeknd

Album review: Starboy is the right timing for The Weeknd

Starboy

The Weeknd

(XO)

Four stars

Only a mighty cynic would suggest celebrity couples time big announcements about their lives for promotional purposes.

Brangelina’s messy divorce was probably not an elaborate publicity exercise for Brad Pitt’s new film, Allied, for ­example.

Well, not intentionally. But the recent break-up of The Weeknd’s Abél Tesfaye and his girlfriend, model ­Bella Hadid, does provide an apt backdrop for his third album.

Tesfaye’s songs make more sense when his personal life is not quite so settled. His stage name is The Weeknd, after all, not Quiet Night In.

Thankfully, Starboy is awash with confessional late-night tales: Party Monster, co-written by Lana del Rey, even lauds a girl with “lips like Angelina”.

It’s a winning formula, and many of these ­hypnotic hooks will soundtrack a varied array of parties this month – from teen discos to trendy club nights.

That crossover potential is supercharged by Daft Punk, whose productions bookend the album.

You might have already enjoyed the Franco-electro title track, which toasts Tesfaye’s rise by referencing another Brad Pitt movie: “Legend of the fall, took the year like a bandit,” he sings, “bought mama a crib and a brand new wagon”.

That’s The Weeknd in a nutshell: street but sweet. The enigmatic Gallic duo also co-produced the ­closer, I Feel It Coming, which is also joyous. That track and the chunky synths of A Lonely Night are such unapologetic Michael Jackson homages that you can almost picture the white socks.

Actually, there may be a causal link between this ­album and Tesfaye’s now-lonely nights – his ­relationship reportedly failed because of the couple’s overly hectic schedules, and the 18-track Starboy was clearly a hefty undertaking.

You half wonder if Tesfaye and Drake, his Canadian compatriot and frequent ­collaborator, held a ­”longest album” contest this year.

Drake’s exhausting Views wins, but Starboy sounds a much happier birth, relationship woes aside.

False Alarm’s punky, shouty chorus should become a live favourite. A Lonely Night ­features an admirable ­vocal attempt at a squelchy bassline, while del Rey sings lead on the gorgeous Stargirl Interlude, which lasts less than two minutes. They had tunes to burn.

Some critics suggest that Tesfaye is torn creatively, ­between commercial and edgier ambitions – and it is true his expletive-peppered crooning is occasionally ­jarring.

He drafts in Kendrick Lamar and Future for some real bite on Sidewalks and All I Know respectively. Sonically, though, an ­impressive brains-trust of producers – from Diplo, ­Labrinth and Ali Shaheed Muhammad to Tesfaye himself – achieve that most enviable of ­outcomes here: innovative, interesting, play-it-again pop.

* Si Hawkins

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