BWW Reviews: THE WEEKND's 'Kiss Land' - R&B At Its Finest
When The Weeknd broke through in 2011, he did so with three critically acclaimed mixtapes, released all within the span of nine months. Those mixtapes-House of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes of Silence. were the three pieces of a trilogy meant to introduce this incredible artist to the world. If Michael Jackson had gone for a really dark, electronica inspired sound, he and The Weeknd would be in similar territory. Especially since, at many times, The Weeknd's voice mirrors the late King of Pop. What made the three mixtapes even more fascinating was the fact that, despite being released in such a narrow window, each one showed tremendous growth.
This leads me to begin discussing Kiss Land, The Weeknd's proper debut album. From the first notes on "Professional," through the entire album, The Weeknd captivates his audience. This is trance-inducing R&B at its finest. That is why The Weeknd's music stands out. As much as it may sound like he's droning on, that is entirely intentional. The music is meant to pull listeners in, engulf them in a sea of darkness.
The Weeknd, whose name is Abel Tesfaye, has been known to make music that is purposefully, and emotionally detached. That is why I suggest that his droning is very much intentional. It allows the audience to see into his tortured, and somewhat emotionally inept psyche. Tesfaye openly admits to the fear and anxiety that comes with leaving your home for the first time. But, what makes things more interesting, is that rather than being a side subject, that fear and anxiety directly informs the tone of the entire album. That makes the Weeknd unique. Very few R&B artists attempt to remove the emotional side of lyricism.
This attempt brings out a sort of weird soulful and exasperated sound that is incredible. There are many fantastic songs on the album such as "Adaptation," "Wanderlust" and "Tears in the Rain." These three songs suggest that, while Abel's songs may be rooted in pop ideas, he is not attempting to speak to the pop radio audience. With Kiss Land, The Weeknd delivers something rare in R&B: a deeply atmospheric and emotional album based on cold, isolationist sensibilities. That makes this album a tour de force.
Through the entire project, there is only one feature, which comes from Drake, who through a tweet, helped propel The Weeknd to stardom before he released House of Balloons. Each of Tesfaye's releases have presented him as a true artist. Now that we have his proper debut, I'm glad to say, he has not toned down any of his artistic inclinations.