By Gage Sutton
It’s been four long years but The Weeknd has finally returned to the music scene with his fourth full-length studio album, After Hours. The Toronto Native Abel Tesfaye hasn’t been very active since the release of his immensely successful 2016 album Starboy.
In the four years since Starboy’s release, all fans had heard from the Weeknd was a six-track EP in 2018 following his very public breakup with Selena Gomez in a project titled My Dear Melancholy.
Aside from My Dear Melancholy, Abel stayed quiet on social media and in the music world. However, in December 2019, The Weeknd dropped “Heartless” and “Blinding Lights” the two lead singles for his new album. Needless to say, fans were ready for what was to come.
The singles saw huge streaming numbers despite their vastly different sonic styles. After some amazing performances of the singles on late night shows in the weeks following the release of the title track, Abel revealed the album release date as March 20.
It quickly became time for one of R&Bs most polarizing figures to release arguably the most highly anticipated albums in recent memory.
Now, with all of that being said, it’s time to delve into the review of The Weekend’s most mature and cohesive project to date, After Hours.
After Hours’ opening track “Alone Again” kicks off the album with some almost extra-terrestrial sounding synthesizers. The first few minutes of the track are atmospheric, all I could picture was The Weeknd slowly descending from a UFO as he hauntingly sings about the loneliness he feels. When the beat switches, Abel sings about a girl he meets and tells her that he doesn’t think he can handle the pain of being alone ever again.
The next few tracks titled “Too Late” and “Hardest to Love,” is Abel apologizing and explaining to this girl about all of the wrongdoings from his past and trying to convince her to give him a chance. He wants her to live his lifestyle of partying, doing hard drugs and driving luxury cars alongside him.
The fourth track, “Scared to Live,” is a ballad about Abel convincing the girl to not be scared to give him a chance. The Weeknd shows off his incredible vocal range throughout this chill instrumental song and ends up starting a relationship with the girl.
“Snowchild ” is the next track and unlike any of the other songs on the album. It is about The Weeknd reminiscing his come up which led to where he is now. The Weeknd’s choppy almost rap-like delivery on the track flows well with the simple beat and gives some background on the things that started to control his life after he got famous including cocaine (snow) among many other vices.
“Escape from LA” is one of the darker moments on the album. It’s lyrics detail Abel cheating on his partner with a girl in the studio. Abel uses the city of Los Angeles as his reason for the reckless behavior and suggests that perhaps it would be better for their relationship if they both left the city.
Using the context of the next few tracks it can be assumed that Abel’s partner left him after finding out about his affair in “Escape to LA”.
The next track, “Heartless,” The Weeknd sings over a trap beat in a similar style of Bryson Tiller’s album TRAPSOUL. The lyrics paint The Weeknd getting high and flexing all of his material possessions in the verses. This carries over into the next track “Faith,” where The Weeknd continues singing about his drug addiction and –in the context of the album– he overdoses.
“Blinding Lights” is the continuation of his overdose, the lights he sings about are the ambulance lights from being taken to the hospital. The track is one of the more upbeat ones despite its somber subject matter.
The track uses the 80s aesthetic with electronic dance inspired synths paired with The Weeknd’s lyrics about how he can only feel sober or normal when his partner is around.
The next two tracks, “In Your Eyes” and “Save Your Tears,” keep with the trend of 80’s synth-pop. Rather than stay with the dark topics from the middle part of the album, these songs are focused on Abel trying to get his ex to take him back after realizing he needs her.
The interlude sees The Weeknd continuing to try and convince her to love him again despite her already being in a relationship with a new guy.
The title track is the most hard-hitting of the album with The Weeknd apologizing to his ex-lover and practically begging her to take him back. This track can be best compared sonically to his Trilogy era.
Whether it’s the pitched vocals or the eerie vibes, this is one of the most layered and impressive performances from The Weeknd on this project.
Finally, the last track “Until I Bleed Out” is the conclusion to the love affair and ultimately the end of Abel’s character in After Hours. After his ex says she won’t take him back, The Weeknd sings about bleeding out until he eventually dies. The bleeding out could also be a metaphor for Abel’s efforts in trying to make the relationship work by implying he did everything he could.
I found this album to be The Weeknd’s best work yet. Its underlying story is told so well throughout the project in different styles of music. It makes it hard to not appreciate The Weeknd’s versatility.
What I appreciate most about the album is just seeing how far The Weeknd has come, not only in terms of vocal ability but lyrical substance. People who have listened since his mixtape days can speak highly of just how much he’s matured as an artist and as a human.
While he flashes signs of his inspirations, Abel has found a way to be as unique as any artist of this generation through his music and visuals.
After Hours is the prime example of this. This is an album I will be listening to on repeat for months to come. I recommend After Hours for anyone and everyone.
Featured image via After Hours album cover.