Since his initially anonymous YouTube posts in 2010, Abel Tesfaye has delivered a solid repertoire of innovative, sultry, baby-making hip hop music under the pseudonym The Weeknd. After a brief hiatus, following the release of his 3-part mixtape series and his debut album Trilogy, The Weeknd returns with the full-length title track for his forthcoming album Kiss Land.
The track starts off normal enough, Abel’s intimate vocals take on an almost ghostly form layered above a discomforting, haunted house trap beat. For all his worldliness, however, “Kiss Land” cannot help but dissolve into a pop-expressive, hip-hop ballad by the chorus. The lyrics “Don’t hold back/ Let it out” are reiterated in tandem with a K-Pop resembling sample that comes together a lot better than it sounds.
About four and a half minutes in, the beat is hollowed out, inverted, and then reconfigured as a dark confessional, a sincere soliloquy over dreamy, deathcore trap music. In this sense, there are obvious associations to Frank Ocean‘s similarly lengthy, two-part track “Pyramids”, but this in no way should this depreciate the value of The Weeknd‘s artistic prowess.
Lyrically, Abel strays from the painstakingly familiar discourse of drugs and sex (and sex on drugs, i.e. “High For This”), instead constructing a deeply personal narrative in the final three minutes of the song. Poetically, the first part leaves something to be desired, with the subject of the song concentrated on an anonymous, assumedly sexy girl. But by the second part, The Weeknd completely shifts the direction of the track.
Developing a intimate prose that harkens upon rappers like Tyler, The Creator, Kendrick Lamar, and Chance The Rapper, Abel is unabashed in this merciless self-reflection. The same discourse of sex and drugs is spoken of with apparently negative connotations, the singer portraying his recently achieved, international fame as something alienating and discomforting: “This ain’t nothing to relate to.”