In the title track of his major label debut, Abel Tesfaye attempts to lure his prey with the words “I’m a little camera shy”. Three mixtapes ago, where the air of mystery fell like a heavy fog over House of Balloons, this line would have been believable – especially as you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who isn’t familiar with The Weeknd’s alluring falsetto or signature uninterested gaze. Now, he’s come out from the shadows of half naked models with bottles of Henne in tow and put himself at the absolute forefront of his project in Kiss Land: a revealing moment for an artist who has seemingly revealed it all. However, obscurity was his apparent prosperity, being made clear by his rehashed tales of lust and loss (“The Town”) and drug induced trysts (“Love In The Sky”), but how could he find new notes when his trilogy ultimately hit them all?
Kiss Land instead shows Abel’s ear for samples, plucking abstract clips from Emika for a hook (“Professional”), taking notes from Portishead’s consuming drum hits (“Belong to the World”), and even utilizing Fox The Fox’s echoing sopranos (“Wanderlust”). The production is less instrumental than his mixtapes as it’s instead evocative of ’80s electro pop and synth-heavy tracks that come riddled with guitar slides and piercing percussion. Where his new songs lack direction and structure, they’re abundant in ambience and the clear atmosphere of fear, lust and self-loathing that The Weeknd emanates to support his idea of cinematic R&B. In turn, with inspiration from horror-film directors John Carpenter and Roman Polanski, Abel has created an eerie world of anxiety that details the tour life, and while there are some noticeable lows, it’s nothing if not an enticingly frightening place.
Listen: “Live For (ft. Drake)”, “Wanderlust (Pharrell Remix)”, “Professional” || Watch: “Belong To The World”