The Weeknd Kiss Land

The Weeknd Kiss Land
6
The latest effort from the Weeknd is a mixed bag, but it can't be said that Abel Tesfaye is resting on his laurels. While many criticized his second two mixtapes, Thursday and Echoes of Silence, for being subpar reiterations of what he did so perfectly on House of Balloons, Kiss Land is anything but a retread. Clear-eyed album opener "Professional" heralds an album almost entirely free from the shadows and reverb that made Tesfaye an enigmatic overnight sensation, as he reaches beyond cult fame for the real thing. Occasionally, it all goes right, but it doesn't start well: "The Town" features some of Tesfaye's worst lyrics ("You did many things that I liked"), while "Adaptation" eschews the valleys and peaks of his best efforts for an uneventful five minutes that build slowly to nothing before fading unnoticeably into "Love in the Sky." Album teaser "Belong to the World" is a dynamic wake-up call that's followed by the mantra of "Live For," whose chorus ("This is the shit that I live for, with the people I die for") pairs the efficacy of Drake's "The Motto" with an equally good verse from the OVO rapper. Elsewhere, a very '80s (and very Michael) "Wanderlust" showcases a strong melodic and danceable side of the Weeknd, while the John Carpenter-inspired title track is a fascinating homage. It's in these moments — when he's paying attention to melody and songwriting — that Kiss Land demonstrates plenty of promise and tentative steps in the right direction. However, Tesfaye's decision to end it with the bland "Tears in the Rain" shows that while he has the ideas and talent, he hasn't quite figured out how to translate them into the kind of statement that makes an artist's reputation. (Universal Republic)