Four years since the release of his 2016 album Starboy, The Weeknd returns with his new album After Hours, and a new look to go with it.
Fans of The Weeknd (real name, Abel Tesfaye) have been patiently waiting for new music from the Canadian R&B singer since Starboy and the surprise 2018 EP, My Dear Melancholy,. Jumping from upbeat, synthpop in Starboy, to a sad, reflective, and painfully honest vibe in My Dear Melancholy, it was difficult to know what to expect next from Abel. Cut to 2019 and following a very public break-up with Bella Hadid and a tweet from The Weeknd saying “album mode full effect”, fans were more than ready for new music.
The Weeknd finally released his new album, After Hours, at the beginning of this year, and as to be expected, once again reinvents himself. His new 70s inspired look with an afro, a moustache and a vintage wardrobe, set the tone for this album. The album features the usual themes from a Weeknd album: sex, drugs, heartbreak and self-loathing, but seems to be more of a ‘Break-up’ album. The first single from the album, ‘Heartless’, is reminiscent of the 80s-synthpop from Starboy, but the heavy bass and beat produced by Metro Boomin creates a catchy song that focuses (once again) on The Weeknd’s use of sex and substance abuse to fill the void, as is made clear in the music video. The next single, ‘Blinding Lights’, (the song that launched a thousand TikTok dances), is the most upbeat and danceable song on the album and The Weeknd’s vocals are really shown at their best.
However, following the release of these strong singles, the opening of the album is not quite to the same standard and is a slight disappointment. The album opens with the dramatic and powerful ‘Alone Again’. Though The Weeknd’s vocals sound incredible in the first verse as he opens with, “Take off my disguise/I’m living someone else’s life”, singing candidly about changing who he is for fame, the second half of the song is much weaker than the first as the synths, the trap beat and the autotuned vocals almost remove The Weeknd from his own song. The following song, ‘Too Late’ is also disappointing and is perhaps better upon a second or third listen. The fourth song, ‘Scared to Live’, brings the album back to the standard of its singles. Rather than a high energy banger, we’re given a slow and heartfelt ballad that focuses on the vocals. If I haven’t made it clear already, The Weeknd’s smooth, R&B vocals are up to his usual incredible standard on this album. Cheekily sampling Elton John’s ‘Your Song’, Abel really seems to be pouring his heart out in this song and it has a powerful impact.
Both singles ‘Heartless’ and ‘Blinding Lights’ are featured towards the middle/end of the album, and following these are undoubtedly some of the strongest songs on the album. ‘In Your Eyes’ is incredibly catchy with an out-of-the-blue sax solo. Co-produced by Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, ‘Repeat After Me’ is the sexiest song on the album. Despite being an ‘interlude’, the slow, stripped back song epitomises the sexiness of a Weeknd song. ‘After Hours’, the title track, is arguably the best song of the album. At six minutes long, the epic song is dark, punchy and falsetto filled, leaving the album on a high.
It is worth mentioning that the usual misogyny of a Weeknd album is featured in After Hours. Since featuring as ‘himself’ (a privileged asshole) in critically acclaimed 2019 film Uncut Gems, it seems that part of his ‘character’ was transferred to this album as it’s difficult to tell where The Weeknd as a ‘character’ ends and The Weeknd himself begins. However, this album is cohesive and though the beginning is weak, the album picks up its pace and energy towards the end. Perhaps needing a second or third listen to truly appreciate it, After Hours is a personal and explosive album from The Weeknd that hopefully sets the tone for his future releases.
Featured Image Source: Island Records