We’re going to do two reviews a week here – one of a new album (less than a year old) and one of an older album. We also thought it’d be cool if our reviews took the form of a discussion, with humor and personality, rather than a dry essay. Our new album review this week is of The Weeknd’s album Kiss Land. Click “continue reading” to check it out.
The Weeknd is a Canadian singer-songwriter who came to prominence in 2011 after releasing his debut mixtape, House of Balloons. He was originally a very mysterious figure – nobody even knew his name until almost a year later. He released two more mixtapes in the first half of 2012, Thursday and Echoes of Silence, and his fanbase grew consistently. He re-released the three mixtapes, remastered, in the form of one triple album called Trilogy, in late 2012, after signing to Drake’s OVO label and Republic Records. Kiss Land is his first major label studio album.
Oscar: Hey. Shall we?
Oscar: OK. So, what were your general thoughts?
Zen: We always forgot to ask why the other person picked the album.
Oscar: Fuck, right. Why did you pick this?
Zen: I was a big fan of House of Balloons, and have watched with interest The Weeknd’s musical career grow since then. Plus, since apparently we’re a music blog, we should probably be covering all that “new shit.”
Oscar: Well, I dunno about ALL… Drake’s album leaked and I haven’t listened to even one second of it.
Zen: Can I just say, his album cover is one of the worst things I’ve seen in a long time. It looks like young drake and old drake are both naked staring at each other. Which really, is pretty creepy.
Oscar: Yeah, it’s not great. I saw a thing on twitter like “Drake new album cover look like an RIP mural at a basketball court.”
Zen: The person who wrote that is very wise. But let’s move on from Drake and his way too manicured facial hair.
Oscar: Yes, let’s.
Zen: What were your thoughts on this thing?
Oscar: Disappointing. He fell into pretty much every pitfall I was afraid of. His lyrics cover absolutely no new ground, the beats all sound the same – there was a point maybe a minute into “Love in the Sky” when I realized I wasn’t still listening to “Adaptation.” It shocked me.
Zen: That happened to me as well. I noticed because I was angry that Adaption hadn’t ended yet. I have literally nothing to say against your complaints.
Oscar: I will say that the last 3 tracks were of a much higher caliber than the rest. Not including the Pharrell remix and that other bonus one. Those are fine too but I’m not designating them as part of the album.
Zen: I would agree if the first half wasn’t so bad. Anything in my eyes would have been of a much higher caliber.
Oscar: Word. But anyway, anything to add before we move on to our favorite tracks?
Zen: If I had to sum up how I felt about the album in one word, it would be “meh.” And I’m not even sure if I’ve ever used that word before.
Oscar: Apt. Apt indeed.
Zen: So, were there, like, uhm, 3 tracks you liked?
Oscar: “Kiss Land” was my favorite.
Zen: Mine too. Which is ridiculous, because when I first heard it I thought, “I really hope the rest of the album is better than this.”
Oscar: The whole album is dominated by very echoey instruments playing with a great deal of unnecessary melancholy, and I thought “Kiss Land” was the only one whose production got closer to the more full sound of House of Balloons. House of Balloons has a lot of stuff happening all the time. Thursday and Echoes of Silence got much more minimal, and in turn, more boring. I blame Drake.
Zen: I blame Drake for a lot of things that have gone wrong in music, and I completely agree. That was one of the most irritating things for me. I hate music that uses reverb and echo as a crutch to pretend that it has deep meaning.
Oscar: Yeah. I thought Abel got almost to his old lyrical status on “Kiss Land.” There’s a sense of humor about it, like the part about bringing some girl’s whole crew on tour, but it’s still a bit scary the way he used to be.
Zen: That’s what I think he does best.
Oscar: Yeah. The weird little vocal sample helped, and it also had an honesty in the lyrics that he rarely has anymore.
Oscar: I almost even empathized with him.
Zen: I don’t think I’ve ever empathized with him, on any of his projects, but I get what you mean.
Oscar: Maybe I’m mixing it up with sympathizing, but I feel for him without identifying, is what I’m saying.
Zen: I agree.
Oscar: Anyway when it comes down to it, a lot of his recent songs are about girls, and I think he’s at his best when singing about himself. And that’s when the scariness comes in. Because when he’s singing about how some girl gives amazing head, that’s certainly debauchery but it’s not scary. When he’s telling a girl to shut her mouth and fuck him, and when he’s talking about his lifestyle from his end, that’s when it gets scary.
Zen: Exactly. “Kiss Land” was the only song that managed to get at the genuine menace he’s capable of.
Oscar: Yeah. My second and third are “Pretty” and “Tears in the Rain,” because they managed to get at that to an extent also, just not as much as they could have. But still more than the other songs.
Zen: All the things you’re saying are facts.
Oscar: Do you have any differences in your list or are we in accord?
Zen: Kind of. More of a subtraction. Literally the only thing I thought was remotely worthwhile was the second half of “Kiss Land,” for the reasons we’ve said. But even then, I thought the listener could just save the hassle and go hear House of Balloons.
Oscar: Oh, I’m by no means advocating this as anything close to House of Balloons.
Zen: Yeah, I know. I just needed to vent. It felt good.
Oscar: Just as a sidenote, before we shit on the album’s lowest of its low points, Abel did an AMA on Reddit-
Zen: Ten bucks says 96% of all the questions come from women with low self esteem asking him to sign their breasts.
Oscar: Actually, I read a lot of the questions and there was some interesting stuff. And he said his favorite tracks were “Professional,” “Pretty,” and “Adaptation.”
Zen: How could he be so wrong about his own album?
Oscar: Yeah, I just thought I’d put that out there.
Zen: Jokes aside, I’d be interested in reading it. But let’s commence the shitting.
Oscar: OK, you first or me?
Zen: I’ll go. I’ve been waiting for this moment. Although I pretty much hated everything, I will pick 3 bottom songs for the sake of getting this annoyance off my chest. 1 – “Love In The Sky.” It solidified the thought that I’ve shared with you before, that while Abel does menace very well, he’s just a dude who fucks a lot of bitches, gets sad a lot and pops pills. He has little to no talent at being deep. Or even going bellow the surface of a kiddie pool. Cause if motherfucker thought that finding “love in the sky” was an original line that held a lot of weight, it just goes to prove his coke habit. 2 – “Belong to the World.” Cause really, how childish have you got to be to jack a sample from such a talented band as Portishead when they clearly have told you NO? And on top of that, how can you make the song so dull when you’ve jacked such a hot sample? 3 – “Live For.” I remember somewhere in the interview he did a while back, how he said that this album was gonna push some ground. That song could have been made by literally anyone. It was pitiful at best. Plus, in the video he had Drake come on wearing a backwards hat trying to look like Ash Ketchum, but instead looking like a super-dildo. Anyway, I’m done. That was fun.
Oscar: I have the same 3, in reverse order. “Live For” is the worst thing I’ve heard in quite a while. If I was to go on Fear Factor I think they’d tie me to a chair and have that song play on repeat, and I’d probably chew my own face off within half an hour.
Zen: Without a doubt.
Oscar: The other two, I just agree with what you said. Should we even bother with favorite moments?
Zen: It’s not worth the mental space.
Zen: Does that leave us at the final score?
Oscar: Instead of taking the time to do moments, let’s just have a brief interlude where we tell people, do not listen to this album more than once. Listen to it once, just so you have the awful experience in the back of your head, and so that if you ever think “Maybe I should listen to that again,” you’ll just black out for a bit until that urge is gone.
Zen: I liked that interlude. Also, if any of you listeners disagree with the immense pile of feces we left on this album, I’d be interested to hear those thoughts.
Oscar: Yeah, please tell us why. Maybe you’ll convert us, but probably not.
Zen: Very, very, very, very, veyr, veajldfsy low chance, but if you did, I would very, very impressed.
Oscar: OK, so score?
Zen: 0.2. I’m not joking. A) I thought it was even more boring than Jay Z’s album.
Oscar: That’s saying something.
Zen: B) I could rant a lot more about how it’s a bunch of overly depressed musicians drinking lean who can’t play guitar, or how it’s a load of misogyny that wants to be taken as being arty, but really, at the core, it’s just incredibly shitty music.
Oscar: Very fair.
Zen: Your score?
Zen: That was going to be my original score and then we did this review…
Oscar: Well, my original score was going to be a 4 and then we did this review. But yeah, 2, because I did actually enjoy “Kiss Land.” But that’s really it.
Zen: That’s fair.
Oscar: Also, I really wish I could say something like “Abel, I hope you learn the error of your ways and come out with something better next time,” because I would love another House of Balloons, but I really don’t think that’s realistic at all. I can’t see it happening.
Zen: I wish the same thing. What makes it so unlikely is the fact that every sign in his music pointed towards this album being the way it is. And nothing in this album, literally nothing, points at anything except, go back and listen to House of Balloons and become one of those people who say, “God! They were so good on their first album!”
Oscar: Yeah. Anything else to say before we call it a night?
Zen: YES. I ALMOST FORGOT ONE OF MY MOST IMPORTANT COMPLAINTS.
Oscar: By all means, go ahead.
Zen: Adding a bunch of French at the end of your song does not, and I repeat NOT, make it good or meaningful. It just means most of your audience won’t understand what is being said.
Oscar: Oh fuck me yeah I forgot about that. Like, there’s a reason pretentious characters in movies or TV or whatever often speak French.
Oscar: I don’t mean speak only French, I mean like they break into French.
Zen: I got you, but good clarification so our readers don’t think we hate the French.
Oscar: Great. Good note to end on, a little accidental ethnic slander.
Zen: That’s what listening to Kiss Land does to its listeners.
Come back next week for our reviews of Haim’s Days Are Gone and Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love.