Kissland, the studio debut from Toronto’s The Weeknd, is an ambitious album. Of course, the artistic drive found on Kissland comes as no surprise. Abel Tesfaye, who you will know as The Weeknd, has already released three mix tapes in 2011 and a compilation album in 2012. Critics and music fans alike have been swooning over this young man’s falsetto for a few years now meaning expectations for this, his debut album, were unprecedentedly high.
Unfortunately, Kissland falls far from these expectations. It would be unfair to call The Weeknd a one hit wonder, but Kissland just tries to do more than it is capable of. In creating this album, Tesfaye clearly wanted to strike a cinematic chord, and that much he’s accomplished. But behind the grandiose musical structure, there seems to be very little substance.
From the man who single-handedly brought the genre known as dark R n’ B to the masses, Kissland follows that genre religiously. But, by now it all feels a little tired and worn. It would have been nice to see Tesfaye strike a different chord with this album, but all we’re given is more of the same. The same stark drum beats and the same misogynistic and self-deprecating lyrics. It’s the exact same formula that was found on his mix tapes, but this time around, it’s just a lot less exciting than it was two years ago.
While Tesfaye’s minimalist approach to music production paid off in enormous ways in 2011, the production on Kissland sounds like an unfinished project ripped straight from Garageband. While the thumping intro in Professional is welcoming in all the right ways, what follows on The Town is just chaotic and noisy. Belong to the World just feels like a rip off of Frank Ocean’s Pyramids and doesn’t come close to matching it. The album’s midway point meets a slight reprieve with a verse from Drake on Live For. The momentum from this track is matched in Wanderlust. Following this though, the album’s title track is mostly a forgettable one as is Pretty. Kissland does find an exceptional end in Tears in the Rain, mainly because it’s a rather simple track. It doesn’t try to do more than it should which every other track on Kissland seems to strive for.
Ultimately, Kissland isn’t a necessarily bad album. It’s just an album that’s been heard before. We get it Abel. You’re a moody, misunderstood young man. This doesn’t mean that the same formula has to be repeated again and again though. Next time around, try something new.
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