It had been four years since we have seen a full-length project from Canadian artist Abel Tesfaye, famously known as The Weeknd, but the singer is back with a project that sees him breakaway from the focus on love in relationships as he dives into the toxicity of his relationships, what he has realized and how he has turned out since them.
After Hours is The Weeknd’s riskiest project as he moves on from dark and sensual R&B to a very 80s, synthwave-inspired work that sees him pair up with a range of producers from Metro Boomin to Kevin Parker(Tame Impala).
The promotional singles for this album did not get my hopes up completely as on first listen, I thought “Heartless” was demeaning and annoyingly braggadocious. However, “Blinding Lights” I found to be incredible and one of The Weeknd’s best songs in his discography, and “After Hours” was just OK, but once you put these into context with the rest of the project, they become 10 times better than what they were.
The beginning of this project is a slow-burner as The Weeknd discusses rocky relationships and how he was the problem due to substance abuse problems early on in his life on the opening track “Alone Again”. While it is easily my least favorite track on the project, thanks to overly-produced and processed vocals, I can respect The Weeknd being in one of his most vulnerable states on a track.
The following track “Too Late” has the synthetic vibe that reminds me of a song from Justin Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSound (2006) project. A record that I adore, but I don’t think the vibe matches the sinful and dark path taken by the lyrics.
The next two tracks deal with The Weeknd’s breakups as he reminiscences on past behaviors on “Hardest To Love” over these glitchy, up-tempo drums that may seem out of place, but as you go through the album, you will notice that these stylistic choices coincide with The Weeknd’s descent into madness. “Scared To Live” is the most heartbreaking on this record as Abel discusses how he left one of his former lovers doubting love forever.
When we get to track six on this record “Escape From LA”, it’s almost as if The Weeknd was kissed by an angel because he only delivers heat until the end of the project.
“Escape From LA” is a cathartic experience for those, like myself, you know how toxic the LA lifestyle is and how you can be so poisoned by all the temptations that the city brings, which can have a detrimental effect on one’s love life. The Weeknd gives a fat middle finger to the City of Angels and it is glorious.
Like I said earlier, I was cold to “Heartless” at first, but damn, I have come to realize that it is an absolute banger and one that anyone can blast aloud if they feel scorned by someone. Cold and calculated, The Weeknd escapes the toxicity of LA and heads to Las Vegas to be reckless and do whatever the hell he wants over wild production from Metro Boomin.
The Weeknd continues his debauchery with Metro Boomin on “Faith”, where he compares drug use to losing one’s religion. This beat from Metro Boomin is one of my favorites from him because he does seem to have an interest in synth-wave as well.
OOOOOOOOOOOO I’M BLINDED BY THE LIGHTS; need I say anymore about this immaculate song? However, The Weeknd does admit on this track that even though he is out partying in a place as insane as Vegas, he really can only find relief from distraction when in the presence of one of his lovers.
On “In Your Eyes” and “Save Your Tears”, we see The Weeknd leave the hedonism of his previous ventures and giving his energy back to relationships. However, on “Save Your Tears” let’s just say he’s not going to be giving any emotional support. “In Your Eyes” has the sleekest production on the entire record with disco and synth influences that are backed in the second half of the track by a perfectly placed saxophone outro from Tomas Jannson.
“Repeat After Me” will be very useful for all those toxic exes out there that will brainwash their former lover into repeatedly saying that you only think of them when they are intimate with someone else.
The title track of this album throws back to the Trilogy era with the dark and slow-moving R&B aesthetic that put The Weeknd on the map. It sees him seeking some sort of reconciliation for his transgressions. It’s an apology letter to a former lover(*cough..BellaHadid..*cough)
While I am not a big fan of the closing track “Until I Bleed Out”, it is a solid book end to an album that really feels like The Weeknd was battered and bloodied by, not only by the debauchery, but also his own toxicity that has cost him relationships.
This is The Weeknd’s best outing. He is able to stay focused throughout a near hour of work without a single feature, which deserves a lot of praise just for that fact. It’s a descent into utter, glorious madness and the songs work perfectly as a cohesive unit to provide fans with weeks of getting in their feels during this quarantining period.
Richest Tracks: “Hardest To Love”, “Scared To Live”, “Escape From LA”, “Heartless”, “Faith”, “Blinding Lights”, “In Your Eyes”, “Save Your Tears”, “Repeat After Me (Interlude)”, “After Hours”
Worst Track: “Alone Again”
Listen to the album: