“Look what you’ve done / I’m a motherfuckin’ Starboy” – The Weeknd
That is the confident refrain of The Weeknd’s recent single ‘Starboy’. As the title track to the artist’s November release, (which marked a significant change in his musical direction), it’s lyrics stand out as illustrative and delicately composed. Between each gasping “ha-ha-ha” of the chorus, do the mundane words you singalong with in the car hold any greater significance.
“Wait. Surely it’s just another song about the DC Comics D-list superhero – Starboy?” I hear you ponder. Well yes. Maybe. Or maybe, The Weeknd, (AKA Abel Tesfaye), is evoking the late and great Ziggy Stardust. In David Bowie’s ‘Starman’, he is painted as the Earth’s messenger to Starman, an alien bringing salvation to the world. With this echoing the second coming of Christ, perhaps Tesfaye through his own song implies that he is here as a medium to Bowie or an inferior replacement for the glam god(dess). “Nah ridiculous, I reckon on he means Star Boy the Mexican wrestler.”
It appears that The Weeknd is alluding to his celebrity status here; reflecting on how he has become a character of fame as well as the personal problems that occur with STARdom. The fact that the chorus is constructed of the same line sung over and over and over again into forced-catchiness-oblivion mirrors a burden of The Weeknd’s life of repeatedly performing the same songs every night – becoming a gimmicky “star boy”. Stars in our skies and stars on our screens are both elevated figures observed by all. With Tesfaye potentially addressing himself when demanding “Look what you’ve done”, he questions whether he has become what he wanted when first pursuing fame.
Stars in our skies and stars on our screens are elevated figures observed by all
However, with The Weeknd being in contact with a large amount of Jamaican slang in Toronto, ‘Starboy’ is likely to refer to its playboy definition. Reminiscent of Mavado’s dancehall hit ‘Star Bwoy’ from 2010, Tesfaye suggests that he is now a promiscuous player after suffering whatever “you’ve done” was. This is in parallel with The Weeknd’s usual sexual lyrics and so does not show us anything new or artful. The “you” could be the consumer, a partner, the labels, the fans or the “haters”. He could be describing how others have made him into who is currently is, and how due to a four minute bid for further success, he will continue to face more “you”s.
Some schools of thought have offered an interpretation claiming that the words “Star Boy” are sonically similar to Scarborough, the area where Tesfaye grew up, thus meaning that he has become his surroundings given their heavy influence on him. But with The Weeknd actually stating “I just love Bowie, I think he’s the ultimate inventor”, there’s no arguing the deceased star gets a nod in this song.
Evidently there is poetry in pop, but it’s not exactly stellar.