VIBE & Rock Genius Present: 5 Most Emo Lyrics From 'Kiss Land' LP
September 12, 2013 - 5:41 pm
To say that Abel Tesfaye has matured into Kiss Land—The Weeknd's new album—is not quite right. At the same time, he has learned much and matured personally and artistically since his maiden mixtape. That chaos—a split between good and bad, high and low—leads to some of the best sung lyricism of the year. Rap Genius and Rock Genius present the five most lyrical tracks from Kiss Land, a must-listen project. —Ronald Metellus
“What does it mean when your heart's already numb/You're professional”
Kiss Land is a worthy follow up to The Weeknd’s trilogy of mixtapes because it explores their themes in a new context. Drugs and their side effects, parties and their attendants loom just as large as ever, but these themes have been complicated by Abel Tesfaye’s success. When he asks “So you’re somebody now, but what’s a somebody in a nobody town,” it’s a question directed at a stripper, but it could also apply to Abel himself. If you couldn’t tell by the Japanese pornography inspired visuals or the album cover that finds Abel in a hotel room abroad, Kiss Land is an R&B star’s take on Lost In Translation.
“I’ve been killing these shows/But I'm always getting high/Cause my confidence low”
The Weeknd guides a lover through a high for the first half of “Love In The Sky.” He lays out the risks (“If you commit to this ride, there’s no turning back”), asks her to embrace the high (“You’ll learn to love how to dream”), and finally requests that she push her limits (“You said you’ve been to the sky/we’ll go beyond that”). The last verse pauses for reflection: “Do you feel like you did before/do you see the world getting small?” Then, on a dime, he switches perspective and the song turns inward and gets bittersweet. He’s maturing, but he’s also getting old. He’s touring and he’s deteriorating. Unsure of how to create balance, the song ends with him murmuring “control, control, control,” as if he can chant it into existence.
Until hearing “this the shit that I live for, with the people I'd die for,” you can almost completely forget about The Weeknd’s friends. Kiss Land finds Abel with strippers, drivers, ex-girlfriends, but hardly ever with his buddies. This is a marked shift from Trilogy’s Toronto house parties. Back then, we would hear people voicing their concerns about Abel: “We just never act a fool/that's just how we fuckin' livin.”
Sure, he was falling into the wrong crowd, but at least was a crowd. It’s sort of ironic that Drake gets the only guest feature on the album—after spending the year beefing with The Weeknd—but his presence is welcome. The two Canadians complement each other well and it’s a good thing they’ve reconciled.
“Good girls go to heaven/And bad girls go everywhere”
Kiss Land isn’t a particularly religious album, but it is about escaping to something larger than yourself. The thrill of travel and the unpredictability that comes with that creates a dichotomy where good and bad split off and retake the world, opposed. Still, there’s a rare moment here where The Weeknd approaches the world with optimism: “You're in love with something bigger than love/you believe in something stronger than trust.” And just like that, it leaves.
“My doctor told me to stop and he gave me something to pop/I mix it up with some Adderall's and I wait to get to the top/And I mix it up with some alcohol and I pour it up in a shot”
The title track reads like an epic poem of self-destructive ideas. Fortunately, The Weeknd can make self-annihilation sound amazing. Abel takes a power trip, and it is a frenzied experience. He considers taking a girl on tour. He considers getting blown with gold grills. He considers the house he bought and never slept in.
Frank Ocean asked a taxi driver to hear his story on “Bad Religion.” Here, The Weeknd makes his driver get high and drive at least 125 miles per hour, or else he’s fired. He caps it off by telling us that “this ain’t nothing to relate to.” You may not relate to Bill Murray’s character in Lost in Translation either, but you still want to know what he whispers at the end. And we always want to know what Abel wants to say.