Even after releasing a platinum-certified album and a widely known guest-verse on Drake’s sophomore album, The Weeknd has been pretty good at staying anonymous. Kiss Land –though The Weeknd considers it his debut, it’s technically his fourth album- is everything you could expect from the Canadian singer. It’s still dark and his favorite subjects, drugs, alcohol (preferably mixed together) and girls, are present in every lyric. And that makes Kiss Land a well-crafted album, though not as refreshing as his real debut, House of Balloons.

When you mention The Weeknd, you’ll be having a discussion within 18 seconds. Whatever you think of Abel Tesfaye, you think something of him. Whether you see him as the next Michael Jackson or the savior of R&B,1 or you’re at the other end of the spectrum thinking he’s the biggest fraud, asshole and pretentious artist: what matters is that you have an opinion. And after listening to Kiss Land your opinion won’t change. With Professional and The Town, Abel Tesfaye immediately sets the mood. It’s the mood you’re used to when listening to The Weeknd: you’re transported to a dark and clouded back room of the VIP-section, filled with glass tables and girls who mix any drink with any drug and any man.

The Weeknd works again with Drake on Live For, a track that’s not as good as one would expect after their previous collaborations, Crew Love and The Zone. The simplistic and repetitive hook works, if only for Abel’s great singing. On Wanderlust, The Weeknd sounds almost happy. I say ‘almost’ because The Weeknd still has a cynical view on love: “They’re in love with this idea of love / It’s a shame that they’ll believe it will come”. The chorus sounds like something Rihanna would sing and you expect the EDM-beat to drop any second. Thank God that that doesn’t happen, but the lyrics get pretty simple: “Good girls go to heaven / Bad girls go everywhere / And tonight I will love you / And tomorrow you won’t care”. It’s the only song on Kiss Land that could be a hit single. The remix Pharrell made of this song is included as a bonus track, but adds absolutely nothing to the original version.

Because of his mature and dark lyrics, you often forget how young Tesfaye actually is and how much his life must have changed since releasing House of Balloons. Unlike fellow-Canadian Drake, who raps almost all the time about how much his life’s changed,2 The Weeknd’s content has mostly remained the same. I’m sure the girls are prettier and more accessible now, and so are the drugs, but we hardly get anything really personal from the singer.3 Only on the third verse of Kiss Land, Abel Tesfaye shows a little something of the changes he’s been through: “I got a brand new place, I think I’ve seen it twice all year / I can’t remember how it looks inside, so you can picture how my life’s been / I went from starin’ at the same four walls for 21 years / To seein’ the whole world in just twelve months / Been gone for so long I might have just found God”. He switches back to his usual form within no time: “My doctor told me to stop / And he gave me something to pop / I mix it up with some Adderall’s and I wait to get to the top / And I mix it up with some alcohol and I pour it up in a shot”. 

Yeah, The Weeknd is right when, at the end of the title track, he claims “this ain’t nothing to relate to”.

The Weeknd - Kiss Land
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  1. I really like The Weeknd, but he’s neither. There will never be a new Michael Jackson, the same way there won’t be another Michael Jordan. And I didn’t know R&B needed saving.
  2. Everything has changed but his friends, of course.
  3. Am I comparing Drake’s fame to The Weeknd’s? Absolutely not. But since I’ve seen The Weeknd perform in a train station-turned-music-hall in Brussels, I know for a fact he has groupies all over the world.

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