This past Friday The Weeknd blessed the world with the arrival of his 5th full-length studio album, “After Hours.” The album, just off the cover art which shows a smiling Weeknd whose face is covered in blood, proved to showcase the darker side of the Canadian artist, born Abel Tesfaye, that has been missing from his music since his 2016 effort “Starboy.”
That album, which maintained a more mainstream style pop R&B sound symbolized his rise to popstar fame and succumbing to the lifestyle that was thrown onto him with the success of his music. His new effort “After Hours” does a full 360-degree turn from that direction while still maintaining similar subject matter of women, drugs, sex, love, riches, and fighting personal demons. It’s made clear that he’s attempting to rise above all of the fame and pressures that it brings. Now after much self-reflection, he has a new mission: escape. The album is a full embodiment of what he’s been up to for the past four years, virtually releasing no music aside from his 2018 six-song, 22 minute EP “My Dear Melancholy,” and maintains its focus solely on himself.
One of the most important takeaways from the “After Hours” album is the fact that it has no features at all. It takes a certain type of artist to maintain their audience’s attention solely by themselves and Abel does this very well. All of the songs bring a different sound that adds to the album as a whole and Abel’s lyrics and soothing falsetto help convey the messages he wants to in each one of them.
Weeknd fans have been waiting for Abel to go back to his earlier sound and match the vibes of his earlier albums such as 2012’s “Trilogy” and 2013’s “Kiss Land.” However, his rising fame and profile kept him away from achieving this. “After Hours” gives the fans what they want and is his closest album to matching that sound to date. One of the things the album does best is present its diversity. If you closed your eyes and played it all the way through, you’d be taking a trip throughout the Weeknd’s entire music catalog as well as discovering a newfound sound that he brings to light with the release. Songs such as “Hardest to Love” and “Blinding Lights” merge an old school disco electronica influence with liquid drum & bass and adds the Weeknd’s classic R&B to produce a new sound that hasn’t been heard yet from him. The smooth transitioning and merging of the two styles allow them to fit within the album perfectly and not throw listeners off.
Self-reflection remains to be the most puzzling yet revealing part of the album. His lyrics are apologetic, yet contradictory with every passing word. Songs such as “Scared To Live,” “Heartless” and “Too Late” have verses that can make a woman fall in love and the next line could make her hate him. And the most interesting part about it is that he knows this and does not care. In past releases we hear the Weeknd singing about his bad boy lifestyle with almost a hint of guilt, but “After Hours” shows us he’s comfortable with the person he’s turned into despite being deeply pained. He isn’t searching for apologies or self-sorrow, but a change of scenery.
In a song from his 2015 album “Beauty Behind the Madness” titled “Tell Your Friends,” he states with pride “Cali was the mission.” The City of Angels took him in, tore him apart, and turned him into the person he is. Realizing this, on his song “Snowchild” he follows up his 2015 statement stating “Cali was the mission, but now a n*gga leavin.”
I, along with other Weeknd fans are excited to see where his reckless journey will lead him.