After Hours is the Weeknd’s sixth studio album, and the culmination of the superstar’s career encased in a musical experience befitting of a theatre. Throughout the years, Abel has ventured into a diverse set of genres as a means to expand his melodic sound.
While this journey has taken the 30-year-old singer to new heights, some fans have been stuck in the “ghost of Weeknd’s past” and have lost the desire to to support his evolution.
The Weeknd’s new music is a testament to his growth and the possibilities of where he can go musically in the future. In his return from a four year album hiatus does After Hours showcase the Weeknd at his best?
Alone Again reiterates the Weeknd’s habits of indulging in a Vegas strip club while under the influence of several substances, presumably with a woman at his side to cope with his loneliness.
It’s an appropriate opening that touches on some of the themes that are sprinkled throughout the album, like hedonism and indulgence, and it’s what fans have come to expect from the Weeknd.
The beat switch is what shines through as it gives the listener a feeling as if they’re in a Vegas night club experience, and it’s here that Abel sets the tone for the album.
Only two tracks in and After Hours delivers it’s first standout. Too Late features a crisp and controlled vocal performance with some dark themes that are elevated by synth beats.
The production has a lot going for it too, with numerous intricacies that include beat switches and subtle tones that compliment the lyrics. For instance, the hard hitting bass and downbeat in the first verse when Abel sings:
“Sources say (Sources say) that we’re done (That we’re done), how would they know?”
Abel offers some depth here, as he sheds light on how the media tends to spin celebrities lives a certain way without factual proof. The remainder of the song details how he needs this girl and can’t leave her alone despite the problems he’s caused her in the past, which is something listeners can relate to.
It’s a great song on all fronts
Hardest To Love
Hardest To Love is hands down the hardest to hear when it comes to songs on this album. It’s such an astronomical departure from what fans would expect from the Weeknd.
That’s not to say everything about it is terrible, there are elements here that work. For example, the subject matter of heartbreak is delivered from the perspective of the person being chased rather than the person who’s heart is broken.
However musically, it’s too fairytale-esque and the electro sounds juxtapose the strong opening of the album.
The power of Abel’s voice does a lot of the lifting here to compensate for the production oddity. Hardest To Love seems more fitting for an anime outro.
On a positive note, it does serve as a great transition into the following song which lends itself to the great sequencing of this album.
Scared To Live
This is the best performance on the album. The Weeknd’s vocal range in tandem with the production are a perfect match that deliver a powerful message which coincides with the previous song:
“So don’t be scared to live again…”
From the rip Snowchild gives off Tell Your Friends energy as Abel opens up the song with the same cadence and tone. It’s melodic rap that allows for the story to be the forefront of the song, more so than the beat, which is a nice shift.
The subject matter is also familiar as he discusses his journey to stardom coming from a land of snow (Toronto), whiles also succumbing to snow (coke/drugs). There’s a lot of bars and some depth:
“I was singing notes while my niggas played with six keys
Walking in the snow before I ever made my wrist freeze”
The chorus also notes how Abel needs to leave, and Snowchild serves as another key piece in the sequencing of the album.
Escape From LA
Real 3AM Toronto vibes on this one which is fitting as The Weeknd is looking to escape from the toxic fast paced life of LA and presumably find peace at home. It’s here that we find out Abel’s relationships have developed strife due to infidelity.
The dark and gritty production (shout out to Metro Boomin) in combination with the Weeknd’s vocal prowess, do a magnificent job of painting the picture of pain that the superstar has endured.
Abel’s not left with many options either as women in LA all look the same *Kanye shrug*
Best song off the album.
The Weeknd puts the listener through his experience as things didn’t work out in LA, and now he’s back in his ways to fight through the pain of heartache.
Men don’t process their emotions nearly as well as women do, so as they go through heartbreaks they find themselves in dark destructive habits that range from obsession, to binge drinking, to late night texts, and sometimes even stalking.
It’s never a proud moment.
But that’s why we sometimes need to hear “never need a bitch, I’m what a bitch need…” over some haunting deep space astronomical laser synths and smashing bass drums to regain our level headed power.
Heartless IS that empowering healing song that serves as a reminder of who you were before the pain.
Certified banger. The production is so potent you can’t help but get high off the listen. From the various beat switches, to the Weeknd’s vocals, to the background crooning he adds as the beat ascends, to his performance; it’s all an eargasmic experience.
Faith perfectly encompasses the Weeknd’s strengths. It not only draws material from Heartless, but also delivers that dark experience of heavy drug use while living fast with no fear of consequence.
And then it all comes crashing down as the outro transports us into an ambulance, with sirens wailing as if to say this binge was far too much this time: we’re on the brink of death.
Another incredible transition as the ambulance ride leads us into Blinding Lights. This song also serves as a theme switch in which the subsequent songs pull from the 80’s era of music.
Blinding Lights is a decent entry that varies in taste depending on where you hear it and which fans you ask.
In Your Eyes
This could have served as another single for the album. The radio and Urban Outfitters will definitely eat this up.
The one welcomed change from this song that sets it apart from past 80’s style songs by the Weeknd, is the mesmorizing jazz performance towards the end of the song.
Save Your Tears
Save Your Tears sounds like Hollister personified.
Repeat After Me (Interlude)
Take this in.
Abel got in the studio, wrote this song, and then recorded it to try and brainwash his ex into realizing she’s still secretly in love with him so that she couldn’t move on. That’s some next level of toxicity.
And yet somehow it’s still a vibe.
The title track is the closest to classic Weeknd that we’ve come to love. A somber intro that sets up the failures of Abel’s past relationships and how he’s remorseful for his actions, but is now willing to do whatever it takes to fix it.
He goes so far as to wind down the beat on the outro in order to emphasize his mistakes (ladies, forgiveness is next godliness).
As has been the case throughout, the production is on point, the content is what fans want, and there are no faults with this title track.
Until I Bleed Out
Until I Bleed Out signifies the end of the album experience. The Weeknd has given everything he’s got mentally, emotionally, and physically from start to finish. He tries to convince himself that he’s over the need for drugs, but ultimately it’s still a part of him, and potentially his doom.
After a 4 year album hiatus, the Weeknd returns to deliver a thoroughly crafted body of work that takes some of the best elements of his artistry and puts it in one. Almost every song serves a purpose in it’s place.
The production is crisp on every front, the Weeknd’s vocals remain angelic, and the music offers a range that not many artists can deliver.
While it does fall short in some areas such as venturing out too far into new sounds, or songs that are too “pop”, the overall delivery is an experience that fans should embark on.
6.5-out-of-14 songs to keep
Featured Image via Heartless Official Video – YouTube