Photo Credit: Nabil Elderkin
The Weeknd’s latest album After Hours is quite a thrilling ride. The album is intentionally introduced by The Weeknd’s character of the night (A suave, diamond stud rocking, red suit wearing playboy) featured in a storyline of videos that make up the LP. Things begin as you see the Canadian crooner strolling aimlessly down the strip of a busy, lively looking Las Vegas, having an eventful if not self- destructive night on the town, complete with a fresh nosebleed he’s oblivious to, through his see-through colorful ray band glasses. Representing as the summation of the galactic venture.
Serving as his fourth official studio album, and ripe with introspection, The Weeknd (born Abel Tesfaye) for the most part flexes his artistic progression with finesse throughout this project while continuing to reinvent himself. For example, the first two singles aid as perfect leads. “Heartless” is a lyrical gem, matched with a bold and brilliant reflection of his inner confliction. While “Blinding Lights” draws you in like an odyssey roller coaster ride combining the singers tight soprano voice along with the tracks commercial themed synergy. Singing on the hook: “Sin City’s cold and empty // No one’s around to judge me // I can’t see clearly when you’re gone // I said, ooh, I’m blinded by the lights // No, I can’t sleep until I feel your touch // I said, ooh, I’m drowning in the night // Oh, when I’m like this, you’re the one I trust.”
With that said, the LP poses a new feel from his previous albums. 2015’s Beauty Behind the Madness was an abrupt and ambitious pivot into the big leagues. While songs like “I Can’t feel My Face” and “The Hills” gave him credibility. Followed by the commercially fined tuned Starboy in 2016, propelling him into a solidified R&B auteur star. However, despite all of that we’ve never seen anything of this caliber from the synth pop Canadian.
Exceptionally produced throughout, the songster also got some major heavy hitters to provide a few favors on the project. Iconic pop producer Max Martin brought some of his best mad scientist magic to the lab on tracks like “Scared To Live Again”. Due to its awesome melancholy and surprisingly striking crescendos, it easily makes for one of the best songs on the album. Flanked with an old-school love ballad vibe, it is the most candid we have seen the R&B crooner, as he sings about a heart he apparently knows he broke. Delivering heartfelt one-liners like: “I hope you know that (oh), I hope you know that (oh) // I’ll be praying that you find yourself // I hope you know that (oh), I hope you know that (oh) // We fell apart right from the start // I should have made you my only // When it’s said and done // So don’t be scared to live again // Be scared to live again.” He follows this rhetoric on the other excellently Martin produced track, “Hardest To Love”. Some may simplify to it to another sappy pop song, but again it surprisingly serves as one of the most well sang and best produced tracks of the project.
It is when The Weeknd reveals himself in this respect that his music is at its very best. This is what differentiates After Hours from his previous work. As before, The Weeknd provides a self-perspective of what sex, love, and fame has meant to him. Although here, you see the young songster go beyond his truth showing accountability. Diving deeper below the shallow surface tales of hard drugs, causal sex and confusion. The refreshing approach continues to come into fruition on tracks like the magnificent “Snowchild”. Drenched in retrospect, as he touches on everything from lust, stardom to bling and everything in between: “She never need a man, she what a man need (man need) // So I keep on falling for her daily (daily) // We was at Coachella going brazy // Stack a couple M’s like I was Shady (I was Shady) // Now I’m in Tribeca like I’m Jay-Z (Jay-Z) // Rockin’ Sorayama like he pay me (pay me) // I just signed a new deal with Mercedes (‘Cedes) // Got me movin’ dirty like I’m Swayze (Swayze) // All my diamonds dancing like they Swayze (Swayze) // All my diamonds hitting like they Swae Lee (Swae Lee).”
“Alone Again” is another nice addition touching on truth and self- transparency. “In Your Eyes” shows his airy vocals complimented nicely with an eighties pop sung background, displaying a rare ability to adjust on versatile backdrops with ease. While “Save Your Tears”, though not a bad song, sounds more like it belongs on the soundtrack an eighties teenage coming of age drama. The only pitfall this album seems to have is the overdramatic self-sabotage. However, The Weeknd has always been an artist of fabulous theatrical contrast, it is somewhat inevitable. It’s simply how he’s crafted. And after some time you see this creep in, as he gets over indulged in himself. Though his impressive creative development is evident, he sometimes goes overboard. Like anything else, the starry-eyed and self-pity heartbreak rhetoric gets old after a while. This is apparent on tracks like the sappy ‘Too Late”, “Until I Bleed Out” (which is more than overly dramatic) and “After Hours” which is only saved by a 6 and ½ minute exhilarating mini movie where he plays the bad guy everyone loves.
In conclusion, After Hours is a well-made body of music that turned out to be a beautiful story of heartbreak and personal strife. All in all, the album is one hell of a ride from beginning to end and for the time being, The Weeknd just happens to be our perfect chauffeur.