The Weeknd, aka Abel Tesfaye, took an unconventional but effective route to get noticed by a mainstream audience in 2011.
The Canadian alt-R&B singer released a series of free mix tapes on his website.
The move paid off, netting Tesfaye a record deal. His previous material also was re-released as the “Trilogy” album, which ended up being certified gold.
The Weeknd tries to duplicate that success in a more conventional manner on “Kiss Land.”
The album mostly follows the blueprint set in his previous work. Tesfaye’s high notes continue to be the rays of bright sunshine beaming through the dark clouds of gritty beats.
While Tesfaye’s voice continues to impress, the accompanying music isn’t always at the same level. “Kiss Land” is slow out of the gate.
“Belong to the World,” the most upbeat and musically complex track on the album, finally arrives five songs in.
For the most part, the album stays on this path, throwing more bass and musical turns into the mix.
“Live For” features The Weeknd’s buddy Drake. The two pair well, but again, the song fails from its musical mess.
Aside from that track, the second half of “Kiss Land” is solid. Some of the beats used on the album lean toward Michael Jackson-era pop music. “Wanderlust” very well could be a song the King of Pop would have created in 2013 if he was still around.
“Kiss Land” may not be on the level of The Weeknd’s debut mix tapes, but it does overcome some early missteps to be a suitable sophomore effort.
Rating: Two and a half starsBy ROB CARROLL | firstname.lastname@example.org