You could break up The Weeknd’s catalog into before and after Kiss Land. Before: sex, drugs, and wild thoughts wrapped in the mysterious air of Trilogy that signaled an artist on a trajectory of undeniable star power. After: a mainstream juggernaut.
And Kiss Land? A project that sounds more like the comedown of the highs experienced from his breakout. “I went from starin' at the same four walls for 21 years/To seein' the whole world in just 12 months,” Weeknd sings on the title track. But instead of an eye-opening presentation, there’s even more isolation, which makes the performance stagnant. “Trilogy is my experiences in those four walls,” he told Complex in 2013. “Kiss Land is me doing the things I did in Trilogy in different settings.”
While Kiss Land is largely perceived as a musical misfire, it still has moments to savor, like the aforementioned title track, or “Wanderlust,” which in a way works as an MJ-esque stepping stone to “Can’t Feel My Face.” “Live For” may not live up to past collaborations between Weeknd and Drake, but it served as proof the XO and OVO generals were on good terms despite reports of an issue after Weeknd signed to Republic through his own label instead of with Drake.
As the ancient meme proverb goes, if you don’t love the Weeknd at Kiss Land, you don’t deserve him at, well, any other project. —Edwin Ortiz