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The Weeknd - Kiss Land Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 5
Musicianship 5
Lyrics 5
Production 5
Creativity 5
Lasting Value 5
Reviewer Tilt 5
Final Verdict: 50%
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The Weeknd - Kiss Land

Reviewed by: Ryan Dennehy (10/08/13)
The WeekndKiss Land
Release Date: September 10, 2013
Record Label: XO/Republic


There was a shift that occurred at some indeterminate point between The Weeknd’s 2011 mixtapes Thursday and Echoes of Silence: The Weeknd went from being referred to as “they,” a mysterious group of producers and singer Abel Tesfaye to simply he. The production credits stayed much the same, but it was a notable shift if you were paying attention. It was not a surprise though; given the dangerously extreme narcissism that The Weeknd had made his calling card, it seemed only natural that this would come to be the case in reality as well.

But by claiming the name for himself, Tesfaye must also assume responsibility for the nearly complete abject failure of his first official album, Kiss Land. The two and a half hour run time of Trilogy was hardly bearable in one sitting due to the similar aesthetic of the production and Tesfaye’s tendency to sing exclusively in the higher range. The charismatic allure of his perversion of R&B’s sexual tendencies worked best on the individual mixtapes, making the lengthy runtime worthwhile. They also formed a larger narrative and portrait of a man who was unabashedly base and thrown into ostracization by his own sexual manipulations.The lines of consent were blurred by Tesfaye well before Robin Thicke’s innocuous smash, but unlike Thicke, Tesfaye made no bones about his willingness to cross the line and was all the more beguiling for the fact. Trilogy felt like a borderline hazardous excursion into Toronto’s seediest club backrooms. Kiss Land is more like the tedious conversation you have with the guy who’s obsessed with himself but doesn’t realize he’s burnt out; that the night is over and the club isn’t really that cool any more.

Tesfaye can’t accept that he has already explored the darkest (and therefore most fascinating) avenues of his central conceit, and that he did so in the span of less than a year. He is undeterred, believing that his success has afforded him ample chance to magnify the effectiveness of his machinations and itwill be enough to manage whatever diminishing returns he experiences by returning to the same wellspring. But the truth is, who is really going to believe that The Weeknd has to manipulate and coerce women into indulging his fantasies? Who is willing to accept that this is shocking anymore, that we aren’t essentially listening to the fifth retread of the same album? Everything from the production style to Drake’s exclusive guest spot on “Live For” could be found in a more intriguing form on Trilogy.

The staleness can’t be overstated here. “Kiss Land” lifts one of the best beats from Main Attraktionz’ 808s and Dark Grapes II and neuters it with the same percussion that can be found on nearly any Weeknd track. There’s a thunderstorm on “Love in the Sky,” and it’s as cheesy and as obvious a choice as someone who is making “dark and complicated” music could possibly make. There are many moments where the record boasts standout production, like the tinkling murk of “Professional” or the mandolin-esque plucks of “Live For.” But those successes are quickly followed by the likes of the wailing cheese of the guitars opening obvious single “Wanderlust” and the following contorted vocal samples and a misguided throbbing bass beat. Lyrical standouts include the already infamous, derided “You can meet me in the room where the kisses ain’t free, you gotta pay with your body.” Tesfaye hasn’t just revisited and compromised his mystique of sexual malice, but has sunk into a self-parody that is nearly as disheartening as it would be to watch someone succumb to his clumsy advances.

All of this would be forgivable if there was something resembling a hook or a chorus here. Instead, we are left with multiple tracks that stretch, seemingly forever, without something to latch on to and disrupt Tesfaye’s lame attempts at seduction and intimidation. When he says “I knew this day would come, that you fucked another man” and follows up by mentioning “the fear in your eyes” you’re left to wonder why anyone would be afraid of this guy; there’s no aura of malicious, nihilist intent like there was on Trilogy. On House of Balloons something like this would be given weight by an excellent melody or chorus, but here it simply falls flat, a husk of what might have been. Tesfaye’s plaintive cries of “wanderlust” on the safely radio track of the same name make the five minutes among the lightest on the record. The second half of “Pretty” manages to scrounge up a decent hook, but it’s preceding minutes are as much of a trudge as it’s neighbors. It’s no coincidence that when Tesfaye does manage to insert a hook or chorus, the self indulgent redundancy becomes a lot more tolerable and favorable. Even “Live For,” bursting into standard handclaps and darkness in an unsurprising redux of “Crew Love” is forgivable because it at least attempts to keep you interested throughout the track.

The Weeknd is at an impasse on Kiss Land. His time in the penumbras of the club has ended, he has thrust himself into the lit areas with abandon. Kiss Land shows that there isn’t very much left to be drawn from the inky shadows, and even less to be drawn from the misogynist narcissism of Tesfaye. He still has an ear for production and his voice remains a pliable tool, but to keep himself tethered to an aesthetic he defined and completed within a year is to do himself and the listener a disservice.

5/10
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 29
09:07 PM on 10/08/13
#2
Ryan Dennehy
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better late than never i guess
09:55 PM on 10/08/13
#3
Chris Collum
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better late than never i guess
This is a very well-written review, good job homie. I agree with pretty much everything you said. As someone who thought Echoes of Silence was the best out of the three mixtapes I was very disappointed with this.

Also FYI I edited the title so it says The Weeknd. Jason said awhile back in an email--think it was before you were staff actually so there was no way for you to know--that we don't have to do that dumb Weeknd, The thing anymore.
09:57 PM on 10/08/13
#4
Ryan Dennehy
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This is a very well-written review, good job homie. I agree with pretty much everything you said. As someone who thought Echoes of Silence was the best out of the three mixtapes I was very disappointed with this.

Also FYI I edited the title so it says The Weeknd. Jason said awhile back in an email--think it was before you were staff actually so there was no way for you to know--that we don't have to do that dumb Weeknd, The thing anymore.
I also think Echoes is my favorite to be honest. Thanks for the kind words <3

And welp!!! Thanks haha I guess now I know
10:10 PM on 10/08/13
#5
Chris Collum
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I also think Echoes is my favorite to be honest. Thanks for the kind words <3

And welp!!! Thanks haha I guess now I know
"XO / The Host" and "Initiation"--which really function as one long song--is the best part of his discography. The way he depicts the character in those two songs, if we assume the girl in "XO" is the one who partakes in what goes on in "Initiation," which seems reasonable,--the way he lets us see someone literally fall apart in front of our eyes is haunting in the most perfect way. That's what brings me back to Echoes of Silence. It's inarguably the darkest of the three mixtapes, and that middle portion particularly is gut-wrenching.
10:11 PM on 10/08/13
#6
Chris Collum
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A far cry from the vapid bullshit that dominates this record. Production's aight tho
10:18 PM on 10/08/13
#7
Ryan Dennehy
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"XO / The Host" and "Initiation"--which really function as one long song--is the best part of his discography. The way he depicts the character in those two songs, if we assume the girl in "XO" is the one who partakes in what goes on in "Initiation," which seems reasonable,--the way he lets us see someone literally fall apart in front of our eyes is haunting in the most perfect way. That's what brings me back to Echoes of Silence. It's inarguably the darkest of the three mixtapes, and that middle portion particularly is gut-wrenching.
Yep. There were some genuinely harrowing moments on Trilogy that made me think of dead-eyed party going corpses; nothing here does that for me. It feels so safe. Like it's a facade he's trying to put on to maintain his sense of self now that he's been removed from what was his natural environment.
A far cry from the vapid bullshit that dominates this record. Production's aight tho

I was originally much harsher on the production but I definitely was letting my opinion be colored by Tesfaye's stupidity. There's a lot of solid production on here that should have gone elsewhere.
10:23 PM on 10/08/13
#8
Chris Collum
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Yep. There were some genuinely harrowing moments on Trilogy that made me think of dead-eyed party going corpses; nothing here does that for me. It feels so safe. Like it's a facade he's trying to put on to maintain his sense of self now that he's been removed from what was his natural environment.


I was originally much harsher on the production but I definitely was letting my opinion be colored by Tesfaye's stupidity. There's a lot of solid production on here that should have gone elsewhere.
Yeah I agree completely. He's thinking way way too much about his image.

The production's pretty tight. Dude I'd love to have Drake over some of these tracks instead of Abel...ohmylawdalmighty
06:51 AM on 10/09/13
#9
Dustin Harkins
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This is a great review and I completely agree with it as well. This album is so stale and cheesy.
07:14 AM on 10/09/13
blackmold
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I have yet to listen to this album but this review will probably make me put it off even longer. I loved his mixtapes so I want to listen and love this but going by the reviews I've read, there's a very slim chance of that happening. Oh well. Maybe I'll check it out one day when I'm really bored.

Great review btw.
07:20 AM on 10/09/13
Ryan Dennehy
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This is a great review and I completely agree with it as well. This album is so stale and cheesy.

I have yet to listen to this album but this review will probably make me put it off even longer. I loved his mixtapes so I want to listen and love this but going by the reviews I've read, there's a very slim chance of that happening. Oh well. Maybe I'll check it out one day when I'm really bored.

Great review btw.

I don't want to tell you not to listen to it because there's some stuff here worth checking out but the album as a whole is really just impossible to sit through.

Thanks to both of you for the kind words.
07:28 AM on 10/09/13
Chris Collum
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I have yet to listen to this album but this review will probably make me put it off even longer. I loved his mixtapes so I want to listen and love this but going by the reviews I've read, there's a very slim chance of that happening. Oh well. Maybe I'll check it out one day when I'm really bored.

Great review btw.
It's worth a listen or two if you liked the mixtapes just to understand what's wrong with what he's doing right now.

But only after you're caught up on all the awesome stuff that's come out this year haha
07:42 AM on 10/09/13
ChelseaRiane
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Huge let down after the Trilogy. Solid review.
07:48 AM on 10/09/13
QuietThings430
Stop liking things.
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Probably the biggest disappointment of the year so far. The title track is solid though.
08:01 AM on 10/09/13
8SlicesOfPie
http://dwhb.bandcamp.com
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I wouldn't quite give it a 5/10, but I do agree that this is fairly disappointing after the mixtapes.
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