Performer: "Starboy" is currently #2 on the Hot 100. The Weekend has had two songs reach #1 on the Hot 100; "The Hills," and "I Can't Feel My Face."
Writers: Abel Tesfaye, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, Thomas Bangalter, Martin McKinney, Henry Walter; Produced by Daft Punk, Cirkut, Doc McKinney
Title: A single word that points in the general direction of the main idea.
Structure: Verse / Chorus / Verse / Chorus / Verse / Chorus / Chorus
Points of Interest:
1) The production is beautiful. In contrast to what feels like a current trend toward mid-range-y / treble-y tracks; thin kick drums; and that tinny, rapid-fire hi-hat move that has become so ubiquitous lately; "Starboy" features thicker bass frequencies; a tuned, resonant kick drum; atmospheric piano; lush delays and reverbs; and a vocoder in the chorus. The producers are not running all the same tricks as their contemporaries, and yet the track sounds current.
2) Remember when the point of lyrics was to communicate something to the listener with some degree of cohesion and clarity? Those days seem all but gone, and "Starboy" gave me a clue as to why that might be. Let's take verse 1. On first listen, with no lyrics in front of me, verse 1 passed me by with nothing registering except the first line (which is a strong line: "I'm tryna put you in the worst mood"). Listening with the lyrics in front of me, I could start to piece things together, but with an effort more akin to how we read text rather than how we listen. It went something like this: ["P1?" I don't know. "Milli point two just to hurt you?" Also not sure. "All red lamb'?" Are these cars? Yeah, I think that must be a Lamborghini, and those other two must be cars, too. There are a lot of cars in the video, so that makes sense.] Meanwhile, the song is half-way over. I think a few things about this: a) yeah, I'm pretty ignorant about cars, but so is the average radio listener; b) what do these cars have to do with tryna put me in the worst mood? Is it supposed to make me jealous, like the money and women he mentions at the end of the verse? If so, why would I be jealous of cars and money if the next thing he tells me is that his house feels empty and he's just running lines of cocaine all the time? The main idea of the chorus seems to be that the money and fame is not all it has cracked up to be, so maybe I'm not at all jealous about the cars and everything else. (Continued below in #3)
3) One thing in the songwriting books that you are always asked to consider is that a listener has one moment in which to hear AND understand what you say. if it takes even a couple of seconds for a listener to register a word or phrase, several more words and phrases have passed them by in the meantime. I think one of the things that has happened with lyrics lately is that the internet has made it easy to look up official lyrics, so writers are not at all worried about a listener understanding what they are saying as they sing it or speak it. And then there's VEVO and YouTube, where so many people consume music, where we have visuals to support the lyrics as well; in this case, the video's garage full of cars helped me figure out verse 1. (Continued below in #4).
4) Is this fair to expect of listeners? Do we want our listeners piecing together meanings from text and visuals, or do we want them to listen and be present in what they hear? Do we as songwriters want our auditory art form to be dependent on the eyes as well? Listener access to lyrics and visuals may not be going away anytime soon, but that doesn't mean we can't or shouldn't strive for clarity in the song itself.