“Starboy” is a strategic return for Abel Tesfaye, whose gritty, hyper-sensual R&B act, The Weeknd, finally reached mainstream superstardom with his latest album, Beauty Behind The Madness. The Daft Punk-assisted single, which shares its title with The Weeknd’s upcoming LP, arrived after he carefully built anticipation by deleting all of his Instagram posts and tweeting cryptic emoji-messages that hinted at new music.
In a similarly synchronized fashion, the music video for “Starboy” was released last weekend, just hours before The Weeknd performed on ‘‘Saturday Night Live.’’ It opens with slow, eerie pans of an empty, luxurious home and leads into a fatal confrontation for The Weeknd, who is zip-tied with a plastic bag over his face. He then gets suffocated beneath a massive chandelier, his familiar, dreadlocked face falling hard to the floor, and the murderer takes off, unmasking himself when the beat kicks in: it’s The Weeknd, with his freshly buzzed hair and consequently boosted ego. He brags about cars and women while strutting coolly past platinum records. Moments later, a fluorescent red cross reveals itself in sci-fi fashion and the Weeknd uses it to destroy artifacts of his success: music awards fall to the floor and his closet is set aflame.
The Weeknd frames fame as an inheritable condition worthy of sympathy and leans heavily on “Starboy” ’s unapologetic hook to pass off blame (“Look what you’ve done!”). At the video’s end, The Weeknd speeds off toward Santa Monica’s mountains in a $1.5 million McLaren P1, while a black panther, previously pictured on his wall, sits in the passenger seat, tame as a puppy. His cars are the only things he is unwilling to wreck.