Album Look Back #12: The Weeknd’s ‘Kiss Land’

Wow! It’s been a really long time since I’ve done an Album Look Back! I don’t know why lol. I guess it’s because I’ve been trying to spend more time listening to and reviewing new stuff, and that leads to me spending less time talking about older projects. I usually save the older albums for myself when I’m just hanging out in my room listening to my records. But I’ve been thinking a lot about Kiss Land (2013) over the past couple days, and I figured that it was the perfect opportunity to bring in a throwback.

unrelated, but can we talk about how GOOD Abel looks in this still from the “Pretty” video????

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been a fan of The Weeknd for a really long time. I’m always shook at how long I’ve been listening to him – almost 10 years! – in comparison to how long I’ve been listening to most of the other artists I frequent. And that has allowed me to witness his growth as an artist, which as been such an amazing journey to watch. I remember being so excited for Kiss Land to drop because it was going to be The Weeknd’s debut album; he was still very much a mystery at that point (and a newbie in the game), so there was a lot of anticipation around what he was going to bring to the table. I had a friend at the time that was just as into his music as I was, so we spent a lot of time talking about the project after it came out.

I recently secured Kiss Land on vinyl, so I was able to revisit it fully for the first time in a couple of years a few days ago. And then for whatever reason yesterday, I decided that I would listen to basically Abel’s entire discography. So I ended up listening to After Hours (2020), most of Beauty Behind the Madness (2015), all of My Dear Melancholy (2018), and a little bit of Starboy (2016). And something that I started thinking about before I went to sleep last night – after spending so much time with his music earlier in the day and watching the video for “Snowchild” – was how much I would like to read a book about his experiences in the music business. I’ve always maintained that even though I love Abel’s music, I really don’t see him making music for that much longer. Much like Denzel, I see maybe 1-3 more albums, with Abel going down a different creative path afterwards. He’s already started dipping his toe into acting, so I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of that in the future. And it’s not that I don’t want him to keep making music, but it feels like he’s reaching a point of “I just want to do a bunch of other stuff, and do music on the side for funzies.” Which would be good for him; he’d be leaving behind a really solid discography. But before he dips out, I need him to write a book lol.

The song and the video for “Snowchild” kind of work as this nostalgia trip through The Weeknd’s musical (and personal) past and present – demystifying and pulling the veil off of what it really means to be famous in your twenties. And in that video there were some references to a bunch of different music videos from past era, and it kind of was an opportunity for Abel to tie up some of the loose ends from the Starboy videos and bring those elements in, in conjunction with the themes from After Hours. Starboy being the jumping off point for showing some of the more negative pieces of celebrity, and After Hours continuing that conversation.

And I started thinking about how interesting it would be to hear him talk in detail about what he has experienced during his time in the music business. And that train of thought led me thinking about the difference between Kiss Land and After Hours. So this Album Look Back is less about my feelings towards Kiss Land sonically, and more about the worlds that were created by those two projects. And I think Kiss Land is the perfect album to kind of center this conversation on not only because it was his debut album, but also the world that Kiss Land creates is so much different than the world that is created with After Hours. Listening to Kiss Land feels like you are being transported into this magical world where anything is possible, and you can get into things that are outside of your reality.

This ain’t nothing to relate to.

The Weeknd, “Kiss Land”

It almost works a little bit like a video game – like The Sims or Grand Theft Auto – where it leans into a smudged reality, where things are familiar but the consequences don’t matter past a certain point. He tells stories on Kiss Land that don’t feel completely out of reach, but the average Joe Shmoe isn’t out here doing half of the things Abel talks about on that project. It’s really a masterclass in creating a space of musical escapism. And that’s what Abel’s music was at the beginning of his career – musical escapism. And he was the narrator. Of course there were personal pieces in there; songs like “Belong to the World” and “Tears in the Rain” seem to be a bit on the more personal side, but overall, it feels like there’s a barrier being placed, where we’re only able to bear witness to what’s happening on the surface, but we never get any deeper to find out why things are happening the way that they are. And that’s why escapism works; you don’t have to worry about the whys and the hows – you can just be along for the ride.

But After Hours is full of opportunities to look into the mirror – both for us and for Abel. Everything feels real and like there are real consequences. Love isn’t love if two people aren’t in it together; our own insecurities can trick us into doing things that are harmful for us; sometimes what we think we want isn’t actually good for us; sometimes we’re creating the toxic energy in our lives. So it’s an interesting dichotomy, and I guess just a general conversation about growth? How he began as such a mysterious singer, but is now one of the biggest and is creating things that have more of “him” in them than they did at the start. I guess he did tell us that the mystery would fade eventually.

And I think with all of this, there’s a conversation around where “The Weeknd” ends and where Abel begins. I don’t know if it’s ever been extremely clear. I assume that there’s some overlap, but I also think that there are moments where The Weeknd exists as a completely separate entity. I feel like The Weeknd we have been getting the past couple years feels more closely aligned with Abel the person. I listened to a couple of pre-Weeknd songs last night (“Material Girl,” “Rescue You,” “Do It), and those feel like a similar vibe to what we get from him now. But when you’ve been a master of showing only as much as you want people to see for so long, it’s kind of hard to really be sure.

All this to say: The Weeknd is an artist with a really great story. And the past couple of years have made me excited to see where he decides to dump his creative energy next. Kiss Land has really held up sonically over the past 7 years!

Featured Image Credit:, edited by me 🙂

here’s something else you may like:

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