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Review: The Weeknd, ‘Kiss Land’


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The Weeknd Sticks With the Formula With Less Notable Results

The Weeknd⎪ Kiss Land ⎪ Republic⎪⎪ US Release Date: September 10, 2013

The Weeknd2-20130729-219Alternative R&B generally is a fine outlet to keep the cooling genre of R&B alive. In a day and age where ‘neo-soul’ has fallen by the wayside and adult contemporary R&B can’t carry the torch alone, alt-R&B seems like the present answer to preserve respiration.  Artists like Frank Ocean, Miguel, and The Weeknd have been the chief proponents of this movement.  The Weeknd’s compilation effort Trilogy, showed the possibilities and the appeal of this nu-soul.  On Kiss Land, The Weeknd continues in a similar vein, but not sans flaws.  Kiss Land feels too spacey at times, where some extra definition and less self-indulgence might’ve boded well for The Weeknd.

Professional” is an interesting way to start, sampling EMIKA’s “Professional Loving”.  At first, The Weeknd’s reference to professionalism seems to be his newfound stardom, as highlighted lyrically throughout the intro (“…So you’re somebody now / but that’s a somebody in a nobody town / you made enough to quit a couple of years ago / but it consumes you / everywhere you go”).  On the switch-up, the idea of professionalism seems to transform sexually, which isn’t unpredictable given The Weeknd’s dedication to such subject. All in all, it works, but “Professional” feels as if it could use one extra lift to truly propel it to another level.

The Town” seems a bit more undercooked than “Professional”.  Sure it’s druggy sounding and The Weeknd continues his mission (“I remember on the bathroom floor / before I went on tour / when you said we couldn’t do it again / cause you had a thing with another man…”), but even given the richness of his falsetto, he lacks the strength to deliver a truly captivating performance.   He does better for himself on “Adaptation”, though it’s not without its rubs. “I lay my head on a thousand beds / it’s been a test to see how far a man / can go without himself…”, he sings reflectively on verse one.  The chorus is more telling though:  “But I chose the lie / I chose the life / then I realized / she might have been the one / I let it go / for a little fun / I made a trade / gave away our days / for a little fame / Now I’ll never see your face / but it’s okay I adapted anyway”.  The Weeknd gets added swag points with his ad libs toward the end.

The Weeknd-20130729-218By “Love in The Sky”, The Weeknd seems to have his stuff together, delivering one of the album’s best.  He’s in top-notch form when he delivers widely interpretable lines such as “There’s no one inside / but you’re free to relax / if you commit to this ride / there’s no turning back…” Sure, he could be going for high level thinking, but it seems he definitely wants you to catch his innuendo.  If it’s not clear on “Love in The Sky”, it definitely is on the follow-up cut, “Belong To The World”.  “I’m not a fool / I just love that you’re dead inside… I’m not a fool, I’m just lifeless too…” Okay.  Most interesting is when it’s obvious The Weeknd is referring to a stripper (“Oh girl, I know I should leave you / and learn to mistreat you / cause you belong to the world / and ooh girl, I want to embrace you / domesticate you / but you belong to the world…”).

Personally, “Live For” seems like something of a wasted opportunity.  The hook is simple as is the overall theme: “This the sh*t that I live for, this the sh*t that I live for / this the sh*t that I live for, with the people I’d die for…” Yeah, yeah, yeah.  We’ve heard this about a bajillion times. Still, The Weeknd asserts his ‘swag’ (“I’m in my city in the summer / Camo’d out, leather booted / kissing b**ches in the club…”) while Drake steals the show (“Roll up in that thing, got h**s like Prince, but they know I’m King.” “Wanderlust” is stronger, sampling Fox the Fox (“Precious Little Diamond”).  Again, it’s not perfect, but you can’t deny the humor and truth in a line like “Good girls go to heaven / and bad girls go everywhere / and tonight I will love you / and tomorrow you won’t care…” If nothing else, “Wanderlust” is the closest cut to dance to.

The Weeknd3-20130729-216“Kiss Land” stands out, with The Weeknd being bold with lyrics like  “You can meet me in the room where the kisses ain’t free / you gotta pay with your body” or the more overt “I can’t stand talkin’ to brand new girls / only b**ches down to f**k when you shower them ones…” Maybe most irresponsible is his references to drugs.  Despite this, “Kiss Land” is a winner.  “Pretty” shines as well.  While it literally opens with a ‘bang’ (“Somebody telling you it was pointless for me to come back into your arms / said you f**ked another man…”), The Weeknd reins himself in with some more thoughtful lyrics.  Closer “Tears in the The Weeknd4-20130729-217Rain” sports solid ideas, but as with many of the cuts here, it lasts too long and feels a bit too indulgent.

How does Kiss Land stack up? Honestly, it is a bit disappointing.  It’s not terrible by any means, but to say an of the cuts stand up against “Wicked Games” or “Twenty Eight” would be a stretch from my perspective.  Additionally, even though The Weeknd built his career around sex, drugs, and emo R&B, a broadening wouldn’t hurt next album.

Favorites: “Love in The Sky”; “Belong To The World”; “Kiss Land”

Verdict: ✰✰✰

Review: PARTYNEXTDOOR, ‘PARTYNEXTDOOR’ (Mixtape)


PartyNextDoor

PARTYNEXTDOOR ⎪ PARTYNEXTDOOR ⎪OVO Sound ⎪⎪ Release Date: July 2, 2013

“Girl I’m out here / getting to the money / blowin’ these hundreds / blowin’ these hundreds…” Yeah, yeah, yeah… How many times have we heard these same lyrics or a similar sentiment? A new youthful male R&B and/or hip-hop star gets the ‘come-up’ of a lifetime and brags about all the money, the newfound fame, and girls that want to do him (if they haven’t already).  Basically, that is a common theme of Drake signee PARTYNEXTDOOR’s debut, self-titled mixtape.  This youthful sentiment is by no means a deal-breaker, but in itself, it is a topic that seems to be retread by every new star.  Regardless, PARTYNEXTDOOR ends up being a worthwhile mixtape. The production is notable throughout, BUT the perceptive listener instantly picks up on the clear similarities to Drake or The Weeknd.  In the long run, who wants to be little brother? No one.

Welcome To The Party” serves as an intro, establishing the alt-/modern R&B vibe that has come to characterize PARTYNEXTDOOR’s Canadian colleagues.   The vocal processing is heavy, but itcontributes to the rapper/singer’s overall style, so it’s not a detraction.

If “Welcome to the Party” initiated the party, “Wild B*tches” fully embraces it.  Obviously, PARTYNEXTDOOR’s taste in women is… something (who am I to judge?). “Shawty a kill, come straight from Atlanta / shawty a dealer, he momma’s a dancer / Poppa a pimp, cousin’s a killer…” Yeah, that’s some kind of picture painted…  But when a track is as explicitly titled as this particular cut is, what do you expect? It’s raunchy mind you, but it does highlight the artist’s musical style.  Basically, a little risqué, ‘loose’ fun never hurt anybody, right? Well now…

The party don’t stop after “Wild B*tches”.  No brah! “Relax With Me” continues, objectifying women in the process.  “Hear the clapping, that’s the instrumental / girl yo a$$, it’s so instrumental / if you gas, let me push the pedal…,” PARTYNEXTDOOR sings rather un-gentlemanlike. That’s not even the wildest the 19-year old horn-dog gets: “Lay that … out, … me on the sport car…” (I’m trying to clean it up here!).  A freak he is indeed, perhaps it’s his irresponsibility that is most troubling: “I ain’t afraid to cross the line with you / I ain’t afraid to do a line with you…”  Drugs, sex, and rock and roll, huh? It is successful enough, but a bit shameful and self-indulgent in the process.

Right Now” doesn’t let up from a ‘stripper’ fixation, with PARTYNEXTDOOR bragging “I pay you in cash baby, he just pay you mind…” He also claims his superiority to those ‘lames’ (“…quit f***** with them lames right now / I could put you on some game right now) while hungry for the do (“Just let your p**** talk, don’t let this feeling fade / girl cut them b*****s off, they ain’t got sh*t to say”). Again, this is quite similar to the salaciousness of The-Dream or The Weekend.  If you can get past the oversexed nature, it’s an enjoyable cut.

Make A Mil” isn’t that much different conceptually, with more ‘cheap’ stripper lines including “My b**** educated, had her clients pay the payment…” My advice to PARTYNEXTDOOR would be to go ‘bigger’ than strip clubs. If gentlemen’s clubs are seen as ‘temporary’ excitement, why shouldn’t songs about them get the same temporary enjoyment before falling flat?

PARTYNEXTDOOR doesn’t quite leave the strip club (“Tight jeans on so she feels my…”), but he goes a bit deeper on “Break From Toronto”.  “Still f***** with the same a$$ n***as / I know you want a break / I know you want a break from Toronto,” he proclaims at the close of the cut. Essentially, he’s suggesting that the girl of which he sings about has already slept with the same type of guys in her hometown of Toronto Canada.  He wants her to ‘broaden her horizons’ you might say and check him out in Mississauga, Canada, often referred to as ‘Sauga’ throughout the effort.  Sure, it’s far from ‘world peace’, but it’s not as shameful as “Relax With Me”.

TBH” has the most substance of any of the cuts… and that’s truly profound based on the material showcased as of yet.  “Girl it’s all over your face, there’s someone taking my place / Guess that’s something that I”m dealing with now…” Basically, his girl has found someone else that tickles her fancy and he’s the victim. This is ‘tried and true’, though it’s always captivating to hear it from the perspective of a male.  More pleasant is the fact that the sex-obsessed side of PARTYNEXTDOOR dies, if only temporary, and allows from genuine, relatable emotions to come into his music.  “TBH” gives the singer/MC a ‘moment’.

“Wus Good / Curious” continues an upswing, but the bridge is among the horniest of the effort: “Good lovin’ feel so numb / ride me till I’m ‘bout to *** / I see you are ‘bout to… so, oh girl, don’t be shy…” PARTYNEXTDOOR’s biggest weakness may be his brutal honesty, but this double-cut is enjoyable beyond the singer’s rather immature, youthful yearning for pleasure.

Over Here” gives PARTYNEXTDOOR a superstar collaboration, but that’s pretty easy when it’s with your boss (Drake).  It’s back to ‘blowing money fast’ for the most part, but Drake has his moments on the second verse, whether it’s “…But I was there Nas don sh*t, a couple things sit on my conscience…” or “They gave the task to a purposeful child / verse’s starts to get a little more personal now…” It’s assembled like a hit, but I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece per se.  Good, but still room for growth.

Closer “Ballin’” doesn’t leave much room for the listener to formulate his/her own picture; he basically illustrates for you.  He’s not the best at ‘romance’, but he has physical pleasures locked down, or so he suggests: “That’s my baby / better get you wet now / better make you sweat now…” If you don’t mind your R&B rather unemotional yet hyper-sexual, “Ballin’” should suit you.

partynextdoor+partyomoOverall thoughts? PARTYNEXTDOOR is a solid snapshot into the artist’s potential, but there is also plenty of room to ‘step up his game’.  Yes, money and sex are popular topics that effect everybody, but, it doesn’t hurt to ‘flip the script’ sometimes.  The mixtape suffers from being ‘formulaic’ when compared to his contemporaries from Canada; that may be the biggest glaring issue.  PARTYNEXTDOOR must make sure he crafts his own sound and opts for more than his stripper escapades as a basis for his music.  Sure plenty of men enjoy the same things PARTYNEXTDOOR speaks of, but isn’t there more to him than that?

Favorites: “Wild B*tches”; “Break From Toronto”; “TBH”

Verdict: ✰✰✰½

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