Musical enigma, Abel Tesfaye released his second album proper, Kiss Land last month under pseudonym The Weeknd. After the success of Trilogy, Tesfaye’s 2012 release of remastered mix tapes and effusive artistic backing from the likes of Drake and Frank Ocean, it is no surprise that expectations were high. The album marks a significant development in The Weeknd’s career; for the first time Tesfaye has released his work studio produced 10-track under a major record label, Universal Music Group. Critics expressed a perhaps necessitated concern that the new-found monetary injection and label-imposed limitations would be detrimental to the musical landscape of Kiss Land. Unfortunately this crowd anticipated, in part at least, correctly. There is a level of poignancy to the lyrics; lengthy dirges on fame and fortune make up the main component of Tesfaye’s lyrical output, punctured with the right heady mix of Grand Marnier, Adderoll, hotel rooms and sexually permissive ‘muses’. Tesfaye’s supposedly problematic celebrity is an unsympathetic plight considering the artist’s success was in part ignited by the mystery behind the persona Abel created; namely The Weeknd.
Having said that, Kiss Land is easy on the ears. Tesfaye’s surprising vocal is still haunting to the most desirable degree. Despite the tired and self-indulgent laments we as listeners have become so accustomed to, finding ourselves almost beginning to pity the troop of whiney superstars’ ostentatious lifestyles, Kiss Land does indeed offer a fresh take on R&B, if not lyrically then certainly melodically. The Weeknd fanatics, of whom there is a generous crowd, won’t be disappointed – Tesfaye has expanded his plethora of production talent to create a sound that encompasses everything musically progressive and engaging within alternative R&B. Famed for narcotised slow jams, The Weeknd’s Kiss Land continues the trajectory in much the same way. The slow tempos, rumbling bass notes and foggy production techniques create a melancholic tone. Combine these facets with Tesfaye’s captivating vocal and you are left with an atmospheric musical saga that verges between carnal arrogance and an insightful self-awareness.
Disregarding the second-rate creative direction of Abel Tesfaye’s lyrics – somewhat more of a disappointment considering the originality he displayed in House of Balloons, Thursday and Echoes of Silence – his second album has much to offer. Kiss Land still epitomises The Weeknd’s signature quality; it is the ideal soundtrack to revisiting past recreational tomfoolery. Essential listening come sundown.