The Weeknd, ‘Kiss Land’ – Album Review
Before the Weeknd’s debut album, ‘Kiss Land,’ makes it to iPods, iPhones and Spotify playlists on Sept. 10, there’s already a 30-song catalog to mull over. Not only is the Canadian singer-songwriter’s catalog extensive, but it stems from three bodies of work: ‘House of Balloons, ‘Thursday’ and ‘Echoes of Silence.’ The mixtapes came together in 2012, and were released as ‘Trilogy’ on Republic Records. Take a list of new R&B artists from the past five years and you won’t find any who have a situation like that of The Weeknd.
The mixtape tracks were raw and, at times, distorted. They were packed with enough fervent longing and an eerie aesthetic that the technicalities didn’t matter. The lyrics read like a collection of stories at an Alcoholic’s Anonymous meeting. It turned the singer, born Abel Tesfaye, into the poster artist for emotional and material opulence. R&B and rock ‘n’ roll haven’t co-existed like this since R. Kelly or Prince.
“‘Kiss Land’ is definitely my first album,” the Weeknd told Complex magazine this summer during his first interview ever. It makes sense. The original mixtape trifecta was never mixed or mastered. It was created with zero label pressure and no sense of expectation -- not the case with ‘Kiss Land.’ The debut’s production is vivid and thoughtful and the stakes are higher.
‘Kiss Land’ is not just Abel Tesfaye showing comfort being the Weeknd. It shows him shifting into a paradigm he probably thought improbable. He’s now navigating a world rattled with expectation about his recordings after never leaving his hometown city of Ontario, Canada for 21 years. Now the Weeknd longs for the sex he left behind with an evolved continuation of his sound. ‘Kiss Land’ is what happens if ‘Trilogy’ had its passport stamped.
The entrance to ‘Kiss Land’ is absolutely ominous in sound -- playing out like music used in a movie when it reveals a villain’s evil lair. The lyrics find Abel once again musing over a stripper, presumably in Toronto. Upon his return, he finds her more popular than when he left.
2. ‘The Town’
Conceptually picking up right where ‘The Professional’ left off, ‘The Town’ finds the Weeknd doing the seducing. The girl he left before his tour is now single and since he’s back, he knows what’s good.
Steady drum synths carry a chopped and screwed interpolation of the Police’s ‘Bring on the Night.’ The Weeknd sings, “Adapted to these models who adapted to the bottle,” after realizing he gave up when he “chose the life.” “She could have been the one,” he laments.
4. ‘Love in the Sky’
A suspenseful synth dropping in between the verses keep the track from sounding like the first three. There’s an intense hook here. Abel promises to become a teacher while finding "love in the sky" -- a clear euphemism for sex while high off your gourd. Afterwards, the Weeknd’s vocals are prominent as the guitar quietly plucks.
5. ‘Belong to the World’
A rapid-fire distorted beat kicks off ‘Belong to the World’ -- it’s militant and angry. Once again we revisit the relationship dynamic between strippers and Abel. The melody rides powerfully while the Weeknd sings, “I’m not a fool, I just love that you’re dead inside.”
6. ‘Live For’ Feat. Drake
A rhythmic bass distortion starts before guitars calmly recount the Weeknd’s "homecoming." Enjoying the fruits of his labor is what he’s all about. “This the s--- that I live for, with the people I'd die for," he sings. Drake joins the track with a rap centered on the swank lifestyle he lives: enjoying strippers and drinking "Henny" and champagne. This is the rated R version of ‘Show Me a Good Time.’
The opening guitar licks give the aura of another slow-tempo, but the bass drops quickly here and reveals an incredible mid-tempo bounce. This record is from left field, but welcomed with open arms. Any man who’s tried to appeal to the nomadic spirit of a woman he’s trying to bed is going to adopt the '80s spirit of this track as their own.
8. ‘Kiss Land’
The Weeknd’s propensity for long tracks is displayed here. Industrial sounds with high-pitched screams and verses that modulate from one key to another make up the canvas for Abel’s words. There’s nothing left to the imagination here with lyrics about his member size, prescription drug cocktail and blatant sex-for-money. Lyric to listen to: “White Russian when the sun hits, White Russian with tongue tricks.”
With a melody that takes a while to sit, it culminates near the end with rabid guitars and drums. The Weeknd is self-assured in his declaration that his return home will land him the girl that messed around with another man while he was away on tour.
10. ‘Tears in the Rain’
'Kiss Land' concludes with a deep refrain. The Weeknd is left heartbroken, but with no intention of letting on that he is. He vows to welcome all because “they all feel the same.” Abel has never sounded like Michael Jackson as much as he does on this slow and potent ballad.
Watch the Weeknd’s ‘Kiss Land’ Video
Watch the Weeknd’s ‘Belong to the World’ Video