For a proper major-label debut, the Weeknd's Kiss Land is bleak, forbidding, anything but "pretty." Except, that is, for "Pretty," which in the Toronto art-R&B lothario's U.S. TV debut came across as an obvious-in-hindsight single. In it, Abel Tesfaye, pairs his familiar anti-chillwave shadows with a romantic warmth that's new for the singer — and that could make him more approachable for a pop audience primed by hits like Miguel's forward-thinking slow jam "Adorn" or Kendrick Lamar's alcohol-ambivalent "Swimming Pools (Drank)."
Whether the song's sweeping full-band performance led the Jimmy Kimmel Live! audience to a similar realization, it's hard to say, because just about everybody seemed to be capturing the moment on their phones. Savages and Yeah Yeah Yeahs are on one side, Mumford & Sons are on another. Tesfaye has already chosen his — this ain't no hoedown — he just hasn't banned cameras from his shows yet. Given the dead-eyed emotional tone on so much of the Trilogy mixtape that brought him to the head of 2011's "alt R&B" class, throwing a fit about technology wouldn't suit him, anyway. But "Pretty" stands apart. Hope its title matches the content of those now-redundant camera-phone videos.