Album Review: The Weeknd – Kiss Land

September 8, 2013



Title: Kiss Land
Artist: The Weeknd
Record Label: Republic / XO
Date: September 2013
In One Word: Horror


Lame. Prick. Genius. Soul. Whichever word you define his sound or personality, Abel Tesfaye (under The Weeknd moniker) has been able to succeed in giving R&B a new and hypnotic sound. To any new musician trying to reach out and collect a few fans, one EP to prove that they’re worth the listen should be enough – however Abel thought differently. The Scarborough-born mastermind decided to release three mixtapes within a 9-month period for free. This is something no other musician would do – not only to put in x-amount of hours into production but to also release the mixtapes as a free download is incredible.

The Weeknd (at the time of releasing his first mixtape – House of Balloons) was really hard to research – let alone find anything about him in the Internet. We didn’t know who the person behind those haunting vocals was, we didn’t know who was producing the beats – above all why is this nobody getting so much recognition. It was a mystery and for many it was a thrill. The Weeknd – at the time – didn’t do any interviews, posted any pictures nor disclose any information at all – until his second mixtape. Everyone ended up to one of tracks through word of mouth – atleast that was how I found out about him. After of course the release of Thursday, we started hearing news about Abel Tesfaye being The Weeknd – and the camera-shy individual started giving us a snippet of who he was. It’s something else when you are listening to a track knowing who the person singing is – but it’s another thing when it’s all a blur. I wish the mystery lasted longer.

After a successful release of the combined mixtapes into the Trilogy LP – we, the fans still craved more. But it seems as if the break just gave fans to unleash gossip over Abel’s musical path. Whether is be the feud over him and his old producer, rumours over him and Drake or claims over some plagiarism in his tracks – it seems as if The Weeknd has endured in many enemies and thus losing fans. This is what has pissed me off in the music industry – the media concentrates solemnly on the individual’s personality and never review his music based on what you actually hear. Drugs, parting ways with producers, sex, woman, partying – what have you – these are things many other musicians go through and Abel (being 23) is at the stage where his mindset is focused on enjoying life opposed to thinking through his actions. Aside from the ruckus that every celebrity faces – the man still creates incredible tracks.

People question how a person who hates being the center of attention can be able to reach out and connect to their fans. The Weeknd recently has found a way to communicate with each fan in a much private way anyone has anticipated. With the awaiting release of his new LP, The Weeknd opened a phone line and offered to call fans that leave a message for him. A teaser was disclosed revealing short clips from his upcoming Pretty video – a teaser looking more like a Japanese singles line ad – but when you call the number announced in the video something else happens. Fans who call the Ontario number, 647-794-9223, get a message from Abel thanking them for supporting him. However, if you leave your name and number at the end of the voicemail – he might just call you back to say “what’s up.” Very cool and a great way to reach out to fans! Happy Times.

After the Trilogy – we have experienced a lot of appearances of Abel: interviews, tour dates, song collaborations with other hip-hop artists and above all the wait to the release of his first full-album, Kiss Land. Quite a ridiculous title. But in an interview with Complex Magazine, Abel states: “When I thinking about Kiss Land, I think about a terrifying place. It’s a place I’ve never been to before that I’m very unfamiliar with…That’s what Kiss Land is to me, an environment that’s just honest fear. I don’t know who I am right now and I’m doing all these outlandish things in these settings that I’m not familiar with. So when you hear the screams in the record and you hear all these horror references and you feel scared, listen to the music because I want you to feel what I’m feeling. Kiss Land is like a horror movie.”

It’s exactly what you get in this album – the most terrifying adventure in your life – of course, in a good way.

Exploring Through The Songs

1. Professional

The first track off of any album needs to give the listener an idea as to what you’re about to witness – Professional is no different. The first 30-seconds alone gives you that haunting feeling of a horror film – through the simple choir scream to the compelling strings. The hook – oh that hook, it’s raw and seductive – the halfway point to the song where The Weeknd decides to turn the song’s production to a more distinguished R&B sound – the turn up the bass and rock your head to the beats – which is cool but not something I was expecting. Where’s the unique flare? But with a soothing voice like Abel’s – you’re bound to get addicted to any track he sings. A great album opener.

2. The Town

This track is a well-recognized follow-up to Professional – keeping that foggy and horror sound throughout the whole runtime. The echo in his voice is much more distinguished in this track – as opposed to the first – in the hook and it really adds to the whole piece. The harmonies are on point and fantastic!

3. Adaptation

A heartfelt confession piece. Abel uses the form of alcohol to unleash and signify his confusion. The anxiety is strongly found through Abel when he knows something in his life is missing and lost but that certain something is still unclear. “She might just be the one.” The power in his voice is impeccable even throughout the sorrow it leads.

4. Love In The Sky

The ending to Adaptation is continued to this track – something I loved even in The Weeknd’s Trilogy mixtapes. It makes the whole album play as a whole – and makes that “horror film” much more real. To all those comments of “I can make love to this song” – this one is no exception. Love In The Sky is the most erotic track of the whole LP. In connection to film and based on lyrics – this track completes a whole NC-17 experience. A seductive thrill that many will enjoy.

 5. Belong To The World

This track alone is familiar to most – having Abel release the music video a while before this day. In the Complex Magazine interview – Abel did say that there is Portishead drums on this track. “I wrote a letter to the producers of Portishead and let them know this album is inspired by them,” he said. However, foul play was unleashed on Twitter involving The Weeknd and the band’s Geoff Barrow because of this. Whatever arguments that may have formed – this track proves that Abel has improved exceedingly from his mixtapes. Dominate vocals that take you through his feelings on falling in love with the wrong person.

6. Live For – feat. Drake

The Weeknd has been promoting this track endlessly with “if you pre-order the Kiss Land album you’ll get Live For now.” With that it’s a song many have most likely already listened to. It’s the only track off the album that is collaborated with another artist – and no surprise it’s with Drake. Like any of The Weeknd’s and Drake’s tracks featuring the other artist; it’s a blend of rap and R&B, which is easily accepted.

7. Wanderlust

Abel has been previously identified as a very similar sound to Michael Jackson – especially off his cover of Dirty Diana from his Echoes of Silence mixtape. We hear it again in Wanderlust – more so in the chorus “Precious little diamond” and being inspired to something off of “Thriller.” Most definitely one of my favourite track off of Kiss Land. It’s fun, swanky, and different than what we have previously heard from The Weeknd.

8. Kiss Land

That horror film presented in the beginning of this album has its reappearance especially through the screams. Abel rants on how his life has changed since being The Weeknd. He says – in the song – that he went from seeing in the same four walls for 21 years to seeing the world in just 12 months. He gives a picture of how his life has changed when he says that he got a new place but can’t remember how it looks inside because he’s been gone for so long all year. The notion of change can affect one tremendously.

9. Pretty

Girls, girls, and girls. The beat to this song automatically grabs your attention. It’s catchy – I dig it. He revisits a past love in this song [I wonder of these past loves are of the same girl… questionable]. The outro of this song is what makes it for me. I’m definitely a sucker for other languages – especially French. It was found in The Weeknd’s Montreal song off his Echoes of Silence mixtape and it’s also found at the end of this song. It adds a much more sexual twist even if just recited and not sung.

10. Tears In The Rain

This track alone is proof that Abel is able to impress even in a long 8-minute song. The themes of a great part LP – things slipping away, everything feeling the same and the notion of tears in the rain. It shows that he has the talent and the ideas a true musician forms but he still hasn’t figured how to translate all that to the artist’s reputation.


11. Wanderlust – Pharrell Williams Remix

A funky Pharrell Williams spin to a swanky 80’s – MJ reflected – tune.

12. Kavinsky – Odd Look –Feat. The Weeknd

You don’t see a featured song from an artist’s LP – but in Kavinsky’s Odd Look on The Weeknd’s Kiss Land. A cool change.

As some might believe that this album is subpar – I think it’s a great comeback and a comfortable evolution from his mysterious self. I’ll sure be purchasing his album when it’s released in two days.

©  Jessica Paiva, Music Vice

Internet link:
The Weeknd

Complex Magazine Interview with The Weeknd:

NPR Kiss Land Album Stream: 

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