’The Weeknd – Professional’
’The Weeknd – Wanderlust’
’The Weeknd – Adaptation’

A modern day Michael Jackson may have been reincarnated into The Weeknd. Ok, maybe not as legendary but the artist, also known as Abel Tesfaye, embodies a darker, troubled, and more realistic version of the R&B singer for this generation. After dropping the 3-part mixtape series House of Balloons/Thursday/Echoes of Silence and building up a well-deserved following, the Toronto artist trades in sexual overtones for a more polished sound on his XO and Universal Republic Records debut, Kiss Land.

With minimal press and promotion, other than the slight drama with fellow Toronto labelmate Drake, The Weeknd lets his music speak for itself on Kiss Land. Considering that this is technically his 4th full length album, the 23 year-old singer has developed a signature sound of falsetto vocals, atmospheric synths, and innovative textures revolving around relationships, sex, addiction, intimacy, and drug-induced trysts with groupies or strippers just looking for a night with stardom. There is an undeniable sadness in his tones and lyrics that only a lack of love and true intimacy can evoke with a studio perfected sound that Universal Records brings.

Unlike The Weeknd’s previous works, Kiss Land is gives us a glimpse into his new life as a recognizable rising star and the pros and cons of his new reality. The Emika drum sampled “Professional” finds the artist touching on the subject of becoming somebody with the sacrifice of his private life and fondness for groupies. Carrying into the seductive Police sampled sound of “Adaptation,” Tesfaye does some reflecting on why he is in a loveless position in life. Lead single “Love in the Sky” invokes the familiar sound of House of Balloons and sensual rhythms and sexual lyrics that are equally eerie as they are captivating to listen to.

It isn’t all sadness and stripper love on Kiss Land though. The percussion of Portishead‘s “Machine Gun” gets a reworking on the uptempo “Belong to the World,” “Wanderlust” is a somewhat out-of-place disco track that falls more into pop-friendly territory with lighter lyrics, and “Live For” brings in the only feature with a verse from Drake and repeated formula that made “Crew Love” a sleeper-hit.

There is definitely a a disconnect when an artist who reached such success as an independent artist signs to a major label. With Kiss Land, The Weeknd moves from a gritty sound to a polished and almost formulaic 80’s sound full of reverberating guitar chords, high-pitched vocals, and dominating drum sounds that breed nostalgia of Genesis and Michael Jackson ballads. The positive in all of that is that his sound has become more polished, his vocal ability more apparent, and a modernized sound from the past. However, the downside being the lack of innovation, repetitive themes, and delivery that make this project a missed chance to show true versatility and creativity.

The album is available now via iTunes and can be streamed on his SoundCloud page.

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