From an underground enigma in 2010 to a social media icon at the forefront of an evolving genre of music, it comes as no surprise that Abel Tesfaye’s (better known as The Weeknd) 2013 release of “Kiss Land” came with much anticipation and higher expectations.
As his fourth album followed by mixtapes, “House of Balloons,” “Thursday,” “Echoes of Silence,” and the compilation “Trilogy,” “Kiss Land” follows suit in his same theme of drugs, women, lust and despair while making attempts to diversify away from his classic slow-jam sound.
“Kiss Land” is clearly a PBR&B album (Pabst Blue Ribbon and Blues), a new classification and alternative to contemporary R&B (Keith Sweat, Tony! Toni! Tone’!, Babyface) that appeals to the younger generation of musically amalgamated hipsters within all of us.
The Weeknd, along with other artists such as Frank Ocean, Janelle Monae, Theophilius London and others, have gained great followings through their experimental sounds, interjecting elements of funk, jazz, hip-hop and pop into their soulful tunes that contribute to the ever-changing state of modern R&B.
Title track “Kiss Land” is a testament to life on tour as a traveling artist complete with groupies, drugs, booze, and sex. “You can meet me in the room where the kisses ain’t free/You gotta pay with your body,” he chimes to a woman he met while playing a show. Followed by an audio montage of quick travels and getting high, the track’s sound is relatively uncluttered, gaining speed and depth within time.
Featuring popular rapper, friend and supporter, Drake, “Live For” is a stereotypical gangster rap crooned into smooth anthem of ambition and indulgence. Out of all of the songs in the album, it seems to be the most out of place, emphasizing a sort of positivity (although still decadent) that contradicts the level-headed moroseness of the other tracks.
“Wanderlust” is a song that makes evident the many comparisons of The Weeknd to a modern day Michael Jackson. The track, as a riddled with disillusionment as it is, provides a high danceability and reverberous and snappy beat reminiscent of the late 80s. “You’re in love with something bigger than love/You believe in something stronger than trust/Wanderlust” sings in his tremulous falsetto that many have compared to the late King of Pop.
Overall, “Kiss Land” manages to maintain the dark and bacchanalian nature The Weeknd’s music is most notorious for, but other than continuing its legacy of angst and withdrawn, narcotic melodies, the album offers few exciting changes to The Weeknd’s repertoire. Old fans can find a consistency with songs such as “Professional” and “Kiss Land,” while new fans are encouraged to acclimate themselves by listening to his former work.
Speakeasy Rating: B+
Recommended Tracks: “Professional,” “Belong to the World,” “Wanderlust”