Review Summary: Being too secure with your own sound.
Troubled. The second-coming of Michael Jackson. Asshole. Whatever your opinion of him is or was, Abel Tesfaye has almost single handedly made R&B sound fresh again. All in the course of a single year. Anyone else would have loved to make just one spectacular album. The Weeknd felt kind enough to birth us three. And if that wasn't good enough, he released them for free
. So it's obvious that his first true LP is gathering the sort of anticipation other internet wannabe sensations crave.
However, it seems as though that isn't enough. It almost feels like he wants to lose fans by being the closest thing to Kanye West's ego that the world could ever hope to see. Whether it be his feud's with his old producer, his fellow Canadian native Drake, or claims of plagiarism in his sampling, it seems as if The Weeknd is trying to be one of the music industry's biggest enemies. And so the question must be raised, much like when reviewing Kanye West, how do you stay completely unbiased and look at the man for his music; not his personality?
Quite simply, you have to take the music for what it is. And for The Weeknd's debut, it's basically a summation of everything that we've learned through his previous releases. Kiss Land's overall theme revolves around drugs and women; rather, the destruction that it brings upon himself. We hear The Weeknd croon, mumble, and belt every hook and verse about being a broken man despite his many possessions. On the opener "Professional" Abel begins to tell the story of a woman who is a ''professional'' in selling her body, how it's become such a practice that she doesn't even know anything else. It's consumed her. And then in a moment of pure honesty, one that has become the status quo with The Weeknd, he pleads, "What the fu
ck does it mean?/ When your heart's already numb/ You're professional."
And this is exactly what is wrong with Kiss Land. It's that spine tingling moment where The Weeknd blissfully interweaves the true reason behind telling the story. That everything this girl can't feel is the exact thing that haunts himself. It's the tried and true formula of a very somber, depressing first half of a song to go along with spoken word metaphors that keeps building and eventually leads into the climax. That point where the somber mood almost completely breaks and goes into clean bass and high-hats as The Weeknd embodies a broken man and belts these moments of honesty. And there isn't anything wrong with this formula at all; in fact its works wonderfully when done in doses as seen with "XO/ The Host" and "House of Balloons/ Glass Tables." However, it seems as though The Weeknd strictly targets these moments, for everything that I described about "Professional" happens on about 3/4th's of the album. Somber buildup, explosive climax, somber ending. Rinse and repeat.
And it wouldn't be too big of a deal if The Weeknd didn't sound so. damn. bored
. Tracks such as "Professional," "The Town" and "Pretty" all sound like The Weeknd felt he needed more substance to go around the outstanding tracks that it just feels like filler instead of buildups. Because when it's done well like on "Adaptation" where he goes back to that inaudible sampling behind a voice that actually emits emotion throughout you begin to remember why there was all the buzz around this guy. As with the title tracks that pays the most homage to "XO/ The Host" to the point that it basically outdoes the latter simply because of the simplistic line, "This ain't nothing to relate to" which says just as much about the song as it does The Weeknd as a person.
So is the story of The Weeknd. We all have opinions asserting to him as a person, but we will never truly understand why he does what he does. I have good reason to believe that Abel Tesfaye himself doesn't even know why he does these things. And that is exactly the moral of Kiss Land. The Weeknd can still dazzle with great moments like the ending of "Love in the Sky," and the Daft Punk influenced production of "Wanderlust," but we also see him baffle us with repetitive song structure and annoyingly bad hooks as on "Live For." It's polarizing. And it is epitomized throughout Kiss Land.