'Kiss Land' Is A Promising But Conflicted Release From The Weeknd
Published: Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 18, 2013 11:09
It has been a long time coming for Toronto-based R&B artist Abel Tesfaye—better known as The Weeknd—as he finally makes his debut studio release with Kiss Land. Once renowned for his Trilogy mixtapes in 2011 that turned the Canadian crooner into an overnight sensation, The Weeknd gives us an hour’s worth of soulful musings for the bedroom and beyond.
Upon first listening, it becomes clear this isn’t the same artist we’ve become acquainted with just a few years ago. The Weeknd on display has breathed in the limelight of stardom, and he does not attempt to hide this through his music: ”I chose the life… I made the trade”, he confesses on “Adaptation.” Lyrically, Kiss Land doesn’t deviate from the sexually explicit topics that have been staples of The Weeknd’s discography. Tesfaye still drowns us in his escapades with strippers and groupies, but this time around it feels somewhat played out. Worse still is a lack of atmosphere that was set on his previous mixtapes, as a cameo from Drake demonstrates midway through the album (“This the shit that I live for/ This the shit that I live for”).
This is not to say that there are no bright spots on Kiss Land. Tesfaye shows flashes of his old self on a few tracks, letting us know that he hasn’t completely forgotten his roots on the album’s eponymous track: "I went from staring at the same four walls for 21 years to seeing the whole world in just 12 months / Been gone so long I might've just found God / Well probably not if I keep my habits up." Sadly though, the initial mystique of The Weeknd is long gone. Instead, we are left with Kiss Land, an album from an artist that thrived best in the shadow of the spotlight whose conflicted love-hate relationship with his fame leaves the music on his debut similarly conflicted and deprived of direction. Yet, this lack of purpose and notion of being lost is exactly what The Weeknd has been about since 2011—it’s not so much finding one’s way as it is the struggle to find one’s way. And being lost never sounded so seductive.