A review of The Weeknd’s debut studio album
From here, you are entering Kissland, an album filled to the brim with excitement and amusement (like a theme park) combined with a sense of 80’s euphoria. In the debut studio album by The Weeknd, we travel through the psyche of drug riddled lover along with a paid dancer/prostitute as they acid trip their way through love and sex. Set to the dystopian tune of Blade Runner, the pop superstar keeps us on our toes the entire way. Keep your hands and feet inside at all times and enjoy the read!
Upon my first listen of this album a few years ago, I thought it was one of, if not the worst, album in The Weeknd’s discography. The slow and seemingly dark nature of the album didn’t spark much interest in my teenage mind. Admittedly, this wouldn’t be the album I played if I were introducing someone to The Weeknd. However, over the past year and a half, my opinion on this album has changed dramatically. It houses a ton of hidden gems that get overlooked by the critically acclaimed success of other albums such as Beauty Behind the Madness and his mixtape compilation Trilogy. Slowly, it has become one of my favorite works and is a mainstay in my Spotify playlist.
In the first track — “Professional” — we are introduced to a woman, an entertainer of some sort. The track studies and/or judges the life and ambitions of this professional and how their career can be pivotal in the decisions that make them who they are. She is of local fame, however the artist seems to undermine this fame by saying “what’s a somebody in a nobody town”. Despite having enough money to quit (as this profession likely began as a hobby/sidehustle ), the professional is consumed by the lifestyle as an entertainer. Consumed by money, drugs, consumerism, and professionalism; where real happiness and love don’t exist.
This song is just as addicting as this lifestyle — it seems to keep building up and up until it falls and we float into the first and second verse of the song. In these verses, we are introduced the artist’s thoughts on the lifestyle the professional lives. There’s a sense of both admiration and disdain. Admiration in being able to make a loving so well out of a non-preferred career and disdain in being able to do it so heartlessly.
Because your freedom was here in this cage all along […] Every touch that you sell is a lie
In “The Town”, we stray away from the professional and are introduced to a different lover, one that seemed to have run away from their affair. Despite the woman’s intention to leave and never come back, The Weeknd knows she will come back. As their last affair was essentially a promise before they went their separate ways. The song is also an ode to Tesfaye leaving his hometown of Toronto (Genius). The high pitched tone in the second verse could be seen as basically a begging of sort, as the verse begins with “honey, please”. This verse is basically an advertisement of why their relationship is, once again, inevitable.
Extending upon this relationship in the next track, “Adaptation”, the artist explains the difficulties of adapting to life outside their love in their time apart. Abel feels like he almost blew it by choosing “the lie”, the life. Drugs and alcohol were meant to make it okay but now he feels their love is tainted by this combination of depressants and stimulants. Also, a snippet featured in this track may be nostalgic to some: a sample of The Police’s “Bring on the Night” is placed in the intro and right before the outro.
In “Live For”, The Weeknd and Drake seem to be justifying the lives they are living. They ball out in the club, drink, smoke etc. in order to show off their high achieving status. That’s part of the glory after all. They live for a life like this and to do it with their day ones is pivotal in the decision to do so. If they don’t do it now, how could they when they fall out of their prime (not that they aren’t still in midst their lengthy primes). Unfortunately, this song was one of, if not the last production with these two artists. Hopefully, we will see a collaboration between these two on Drake’s Certified Lover Boy.
The signature song on this album, “Wanderlust”, includes an alluring synth and an 80’s sampling. With the sample from Fox the Fox, included in the chorus, he urges his “precious little diamond” to consider spending the night together because of her eternal urge to find the next thing (wanderlust). The tone exhibited in this song essentially personifies the entire album and provides a mystifying experience. The theme The Weeknd was going for was a sort of cyberpunk, dystopian type of vibe. This is the song, to me, that makes it most evident. There’s a sort of ominous, robotic voice in the background that is amplified by Abel’s strong, opposing falsetto. This song would also go on to be remixed by Pharrell making it more fit for a radio atmosphere.
In his debut studio album, The Weeknd delves into the dark depths of the effect of fame on love and sex along with lustful desires. To new listeners, this album may throw you off, but I urge you to continue listening. To avid XO fans, this is a welcome difference to his other works that will grow on you. No matter where you stand on this album, you can’t deny the quality in production in The Weeknd’s discography.
This concludes our ride through Kissland! Check it out and tell me what you think in the comments.