Calling all starboys and stargirls
“We live in an era when everything is so excessive.”
I’m a big fan of The Weeknd; have been since Trilogy in 2012. Drake came on the scene around the same time, or a little before, but Abel was more real, more vacant, more vacated, more medicated. Sex, drugs, vapor: orgiastic punk nihilism set to an atmospheric R&B beat.
I don’t write about music hardly ever. It’s not my thing, other people do it better than me. I can suss tasting notes in wine and spirits, but suck at the same with what I listen to. I know what I like but I struggle to put words to it.
Regardless, when I checked out the Top 50 tracks in the USA on Spotify, I had to point it out: tracks from Starboy fill slots 1, 4, 6, 8–10, 19, 24, 26-27, 39, 41, 43-44, 46, and 49. That’s 16 of 18 tracks from a single album. Only Stargirl Interlude and Nothing Without You didn’t make the cut.
So, yeah. The Weeknd produced a thought virus.
Who cares? I do.
Well, still trying to figure out the election. I talk about it like I understand or like I can reduce it to alienation or the loss of jobs to free trade agreements or the specter of automation, but it’s not that simple. People are mad. I’m sad. I’m incomplete. I want to fight. I don’t know what to do.
Starboy is an unanticipated success. It’s not just the musicality. It’s anarchic debauchery. Each song is self-imolation or self-aggrandizement. Abel flips from owning the world to crises of depression and exasperation to fucking everything with a hole. The lyrics celebrate oblivion, cocaine (“girl, bump a line”), casual/frivolous sex, cars (“We don’t pray for love, we just pray for cars”), and other awesome, null shit. It’s everything wrong and everything illegal, and it’s all normal, okay, and if these things aren’t in your life, you’re dead. If you don’t feel dead, I’m sorry, wait a minute. Dead. And if you don’t relate, it’s okay, it’s hip to be dead and immune and numb. I survived high school, I remember.
Trump and The Weeknd offer gorging gorgeously seductive hideous mirrors of self-deception and deceit that we crave; ultimately bankrupt: literally; figuratively. We shout, we stomp; we are depraved. We desire more because we are empty; we seek that which might fill us. A donut seeking the hole, jelly-oozing and morose; aren’t we delicious and unsatisfied? Aren’t we. We’re all dying at an accelerated rate.
Don’t you want something to die for? Don’t you want something to overdose on?
Doing the math, Starboy is getting 9,536,379 plays a day. That’s 95% of the way to TEN MILLION PLAYS A DAY. How many tracks do you listen to each day? Humans listen to Starboy tracks 10 million times a day. How might that affect their thoughts?
Marinate on that, then this lyric:
Awesome, we’re caught up.
I imagine Big Bird doing a line; I think of Narcos and everything I know about Columbian drug cartels was streamed on Netflix with a stolen account password. Streaming is the new freebasing, legalized on-demand escapism.
Jon Snow, you know nothing.
I pump The Weeknd into my brainstem too, like everyone else on Spotify. I’m not alone; the charts told me so. We’re all mainlining the same ideas— depravity for fun, and for likes.
I’ve been reading McLuhan lately; those lyrics: empty calories for my brain’s information diet. 🍩🍩🍩
This is the state we’re in, where we’re at, where we need to be. I’ve grown old, fuck it. But the kids in college, they sing these anthems, they the new shit:
I don’t even know her name.
Why would I?
Surely no one takes this seriously. Surely.
But they do.
Instead, I wake up, swaddled in NPR’s warm sweater-cocoon liberalism coupled with elite facts facts facts, then retreat into the womb; elsewhere America foments in angst, anxiety, and rage. Add the opioids—languish in PTSD. Look for release, join up, rally against Obamacare; what else? What else is the VA but the largest drug dealer?
No, never mind; reality slithers by:
You don’t have to spend your life with me
You don’t have to waste your energy
We can just be rockin’, yeah
We can just be rockin’, yeah
We can just be rockin’, yeah. The drugs are all the same, long as you take the same drugs as everyone else, and have you checked your dealer lately?