“Kiss Land,” the major label debut of dark R&B project The Weeknd, gave its mastermind Abel Tesfaye the ability to bolster his sound — at least in the sonic core — with a fuller body. The new record, released Tuesday, is another volume in the Weeknd’s hangover escapades, with more words on Tesfaye falling into the realm of the famous, but it proves mundane at this point — and the loss of the Weeknd’s original, dynamic atmosphere does not help.
Gone is the overarching atmosphere of “Trilogy” (his 2012 album), namely “House of Balloons/ Glass Table Girls,” where Tesfaye’s voice was a ghostly one, hovering over forcefully toned-down beats, matching the vulnerable, drug-addled quality of its lyrical contents (“High for This”). Humorously enough, this was up there with The Weeknd’s most endearing traits.
“Kiss Land” gets close with the likes of the “The Town” and “Love in the Sky;” however, these songs do not meet the melodiousness of “What You Need” or “The Morning” — both from “Trilogy.” They see increased production value, but seem like loose ends, the pieces seem lost, far from interconnected or complete.
The major label, Republic Records, by no means made “Kiss Land” any less sleazy, however. Tesfaye’s egotism, self-proclaimed sexual prowess and constant hangover manifests itself in the new record like the mixtapes that came before it. Drake and Tesfaye commiserate over personal and drug issues on “Live For,” and Tesfaye sings about how a past love, who thinks he is her “everything,” would take him back on “The Town” no matter what. Lead single, “Kiss Land,” is quintessential Weeknd, regaling making it with a groupie.
“Kiss Land” is thematically comparable to “Trilogy,” though the mixtapes that make up the latter release could be appreciated instrumentally outside of their lyrical contents, creating a sound that was nearly in the realm of dubstep (think James Blake or even Burial). It was in “Trilogy’s” production that Tesfaye’s expression became whole, and it was in this respect that “Kiss Land” diverged most. By withholding this, listening to “Kiss Land” back to front becomes a dull, worn expenditure.