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Did Panic! at the Disco fail at covering The Weeknd's "Starboy"?

Panic! at the Disco rearranged The Weeknd's hit "Starboy" for a live performance on the BBC Live Lounge. Their take on the song is streaming on the BBC YouTube channel, check it out below.

The band Tweeted that they "switched things up" for the song, which is certainly true. Instead of the deft production by electronic & dance kings Daft Punk, Panic! at the Disco gave the song a low-key funk and pop workover in a rock band format. Highlights include the distorted tremolo leads in the bridge and Brendon Urie's flawless falsetto. There's more to the story however.


Panic! at the Disco play it safe for radio with "Starboy" cover

Panic! fans are loving the cover but to be honest it left me a little underwhelmed. A huge part of The Weeknd's appeal is how unafraid he is to take risks and break taboos in his songwriting. Panic! at the Disco changed or took out all the controversial phrases (about one fifth of the lyrics). It's meant to be a song about the dark side of fame, celebrity excess and substance abuse. Instead we got a watered down funk-pop tune. I'll admit the band slammed the backing track but taking all the edge out of the lyrics was not a smart move. If the BBC refused to allow anything remotely resembling a swear word, Panic! were probably better off picking a different song.

Brendon Urie explained on the show that it took a couple of listens for him to really get into "Starboy":

"It was about my third listen (of "Starboy") that I really got into it. I fell in love. It was like 'this is genius. I'm so into it.' I'm such a big fan of the The Weeknd that I wanted to give it as many tries as I could, just to fall in love, and I knew I would, and I did."

Panic! at the Disco fire up for Rihanna's "Love on the Brain"


Panic! at the Disco also performed Rihanna's "Love on the Brain", their own songs "I Write Sins, Not Tragedies" and "Hallelujah". The latter song in particular is just gorgeous. Brendon Urie's vocals are perfectly complemented by the band's on-point backing vocals and his dynamic piano playing.

The Rihanna cover was only a short snippet. The band played it on the spot at the request of host Clara Amfo after she heard them jamming along to the song on the radio. Ironically the short snippet of "Love on the Brain" sounded better than the full arrangement they did for "Starboy".

Dance duo Daft Punk return for a second collab on Starboy

"Starboy" is undoubtably a songwriting highlight for The Weeknd, and no small part of that is the production contributions made by Daft Punk. The French dance duo also added their Midas touch to the album closer "I Feel It Coming." Being the hottest thing in R&B, The Weeknd had no trouble roping in some very high profile guests for Starboy (which is also the title for the album). Kendrick Lamar, Future and Lana Del Rey will also make appearances.

The Weeknd is known for his big budget clips and clearly puts a lot of effort into the visual side of things. As such it's not surprising to hear his announcement today that Starboy will be accompanied by a visual piece called "Mania". It's directed by Grant Singer and spruiked as "a film by The Weeknd". True to form, "Mania" looks very dark and intense from the looks of a trailer The Weeknd posted on Twitter