In a departure from his previous inclination toward anonymity, last year Ontario native and up-and-coming R&B star Abel Tesfaye, a.k.a. The Weeknd, released his first solo album. From the cover of “Kiss Land,” featuring a full headshot of Tesfaye, to track 12, this album presents us with a more personal image of the artist than we’ve ever had. In tracks like “Love in the Sky,” and “Pretty,” we get a deeper look into his world.
While a departure from some aspects of “Trilogy,” “Kiss Land” is in no way a departure from his previous sound. In fact, it is more concentrated, more “Weekndier” than ever before. With falsettos and synth pads galore, “Kiss Land” is a crystallization of the components of “Trilogy” into nothing less than a groovy feast for the headphones.
Tesfaye wastes no time in showing this. At more than six minutes, the first track, “Professional,” feels like a mini-album. The production is phenomenal, and I’d sing its praises even without Tesfaye’s smooth voice narrating his experience with showgirls in and out of the clubs. These themes are explored in greater depth in “Adaptation,” a tale of love and loss on tour. They culminate in “Belong to the World.” The song samples Portishead’s “Machine Gun,” a visceral riff that emphasizes the cruelties of showbiz and the night life.
The second half of “Kiss Land” is more personal. With less urgency in the lyrics and more hints to specific events in the singer’s life, “Wanderlust” develops his struggle with women whose ideas of love are based on movies and the media. The upbeat, groovy sound and true-to-form Weeknd wails make it my favorite track. The horror story seems to crescendo in “Pretty,” a painful diatribe to a past love and her new man.
I?have been constantly playing “Kiss Land” for the past few weeks. The main draw is its fantastic production, but the pictures The Weeknd paints are definitely worth the listen too.