The Weeknd is back with his fourth album, After Hours. Launched straight into top spot in the charts, our writer gives his verdict.
Words by Conor O’Donoghue
Heartbreaking and regretful, The Weeknd is back with a bang. Abel Tesfaye once a man known for his degradation of women and relationships has opened up with his long awaited fourth album, After Hours.
The Canadian singer returns after a long awaited follow up to the Grammy Award winning Starboy, released in 2016. Like the previous album, The Weeknd has enlisted the help from the likes of Max Martin and Metro Boomi, as well as new producers in the form of Tame Impala frontman, Kevin Parker, Diplo and Daft Punk.
Starboy as an album was an escape from a relationship with tracks such as ‘I Feel It Coming’ and its title track.
“House so empty, need a centrepiece… twenty racks a table cut from ebony… cut that ivory into skinny pieces… then she clean it with her face man I love my baby pieces…” – ‘Starboy’, 2016
The latest album however, is the total opposite. After Hours presents itself as an emotional backstory to which The Weeknd pours his heart out on the majority of each track.
Tesfaye portrays a sense of vulnerability that allows the listener to understand the anguish and pain the Canadian has endured over the last few years.
Tracks such as ‘After Hours’ and ‘Save Your Tears’ feed on the despair and bleak outcomes of relationships between two individuals or in this case, three. Selena Gomez, Bella Hadid and the protagonist Tesfaye:
“You could’ve asked me why I broke your heart… you could’ve told me that you fell apart… but you walked past me like I wasn’t there… and just pretended like you didn’t care” – ‘Save your Tears’
On ‘Save Your Tears’, The Weeknd once again addresses his past relationships and recollects on the experiences they went through together, while also providing no emotional support for his ex.
After Hours addresses regret and a plea for forgiveness for the wrong doings Tesfaye would have undertaken while in a previous relationship:
“Oh, baby, where are you now when I need you most?… I’d give it all just to hold you close Sorry that I broke your heart”
While ‘Binding Lights’ is an 80s dance groove with lively synths and popping drum kicks, ‘Heartless’, which is peak The Weeknd at his drug-fuelled-binged worst. Both tracks provide an upbeat familiar sound that fans of The Weeknd would have been accustomed to on albums such as Beauty Behind The Madness in 2015 and 2016’s Starboy.
The track that intrigued me the most is ‘Snowchild’. A melodic memoir where Tesfaye addresses his past, blow up to fame and past temptations into narcotics and women. The track title, ‘Snowchild’ alludes to this:
”I used to pray when I was sixteen… if I didn’t make it, then I’d probably make my wrist bleed… not to mislead, turn my nightmares into big dreams… whole squad mobbin’ even though we only six deep”
The best song however, is the infectious ’Blinding Light’. The lead single from the album is an up-tempo electropop track that features large 80s-inspired synths and electronic dance music drums. It draws similarities once again to the sonic direction of Starboy.
When you dwelve into the track you can garner the emotion The Weeknd had while making it. It feels as though the singer has overcome many of the elements that have haunted his past. If he wasn’t going for this angle, it’ll come as a surprise given how it certainly sounds like it. Max Martin has his hands all over the production.
After Hours feels like it is a new direction for the R&B singer. Sonically sound with an indulgence to pull on the heartstrings of the listener. The use of electro and house elements combined with The Weeknd’s falsetto vocal ability tie the album together to make a beautifully crafted story.
After Hours is an attempt to combine vulnerability with commercial appeal and the Canadian seems to have hit all the right notes with this piece of work.
Tracks worth putting on repeat: ‘After Hours’ and ‘Blinding Lights’
After Hours by The Weeknd is out now.