Musicians and their affinity for extravagant automobiles have long been a source of inspiration and a symbol for fame. The world’s most luxurious vehicles are commonly showcased in music videos and some artists base a large portion of their discography around their collection of high-end cars. More ambitious souls take their obsession to the next level, using their favorite form of materialism as a means of describing their own evolution. And in a somewhat surprising turn, The Weeknd is the latest to take this route with the release of “Starboy”, his new Daft Punk-featuring single fueled by an infectious charm that will catapult its rise on the radio/Billboard charts. But as usual with the consistently captivating creative from Toronto, The Weeknd’s story from the backseat to behind the wheel separates himself from the competition.
Devout fans of The Weeknd know that his trailblazing, breakout compilation album Trilogy (mastered versions of his three 2011 mixtapes) was set in the confines of Toronto. This fact was brought to light on follow-up project Kissland with lines such as ‘I went from starin at the same four walls for 21 years, to seein the whole world in just 12 months…’, signifying the rapid transition from being a reclusive roamer of Queens Street to unveiling the mystery behind the alluring sound that was too powerful to be boxed into the underground. But frequent flyer miles weren’t the only thing Abel was lacking; he also never had his driver’s license! The proof lies in the lyrics of “Kissland” once again: ‘And I don’t know how to drive, I make my driver get high, but if he goes under that 110 believe my driver get fired.’
Times have changed for Abel. With Beauty Behind The Madness, the high-selling 2015 album that took The Weeknd’s career to extraordinary heights, we saw firsthand how the newfound mainstream darling was dealing with his personally unprecedented notoriety, ditching the shadows of his anonymity and racing fast toward uncharted territories of popularity. ‘Driving through the gated residential’ (more like crashing) in the music video for the bass-rattling “The Hills”, The Weeknd cleverly navigated through the classic ‘will he sell-out’ scenario, showing any doubters he can excel in the pop world with hits like “Can’t Feel My Face” while still keeping the experimental, edgy style that heavily influences today’s R&B landscape.
After successfully exceeding industry expectations, The Weeknd has comfortably found himself in full control of his artistic evolution on his latest work. With endless resources and an unwavering vision, “Starboy” is smooth and reeks of confidence, and the perks depicted in the track that come with The Weeknd’s newfound celebrity are his cars. Rather than taking his usual cinematic approach surrounding the infatuation of love/lust, The Weeknd is relentless in his whip namedropping; a P1 McLaren, red Lamborghini, and Bentley Mulsanne all get mentioned. Hell, he even uses a slick Star Trek reference to describe the Rolls Royce Wraith Kahn Edition. On a surface level, these may seem like shallow brags of luxury coming from someone who now dates a supermodel and has seen his net worth skyrocket. But with the release of the “Starboy” music video, we see that there is symbolism and artistic purpose behind the braggadocios foundation of the song.
In the video, a masked character kills off BBTM-era Abel (with his signature, free-flowing dreadlocks) and The Weeknd sporting a haircut sparking comparisons to his House of Balloons days emerges. The Weeknd proceeds to destroy all of the awards/accolades he earned thanks to Beauty Behind The Madness (with a giant laser-like cross) and drives off into the distance alongside a cat morphed into panther in the passenger seat. In essence, The Weeknd is declaring that he’s earned every fancy toy in his garage and since he now holds the world’s undivided attention, this new era is the time to undergo his next wave of evolution, proving yet again he has the ability to put his own innovative spin on any style of any genre.
There is a certain freedom all of us feel when driving on an open road, yielding the power to travel to any destination. And for The Weeknd, it just so happens his own liberation behind the wheel coincided with his blowing up in the world of mainstream music. “Starboy” is catchy enough to garner a similar level of success as The Weeknd’s pop-driven records from 2015, but the 18-track album is bound to polarize those who have only recently become acquainted with Abel. With longtime collaborator/producer Doc McKinney on production duties and an interesting list of inspirations listed in a recent interview (Prince, Bad Brains, Talking Heads to name a few), we could be heading for an alternative/electro-pop/punk influenced body of work with aggressive yet warm undertones (brand new single “False Alarm” certainly reflects this).
Whatever direction The Weeknd takes his with his music, his unconventional rise to the top makes one thing certain. Possessing a stronghold over the vices portrayed in his music combined with the past few years of artistic seasoning, The Weeknd is in the driver’s seat as he works to deliver another groundbreaking staple in his discography. The ride to exist at a legendary status beyond today’s standard classification of superstardom should be quite the journey.