“After Hours” impresses after high anticipation

Photo courtesy of The Fader.

R&B/Soul icon, The Weeknd, maintains his position in the music industry with his latest album, After Hours, igniting a feeling of shared heartache and loneliness.

In Nov. 2019 he teased fans by releasing “Heartless” and “Blinding Lights” just two days apart. The two tracks were the only pieces of the album fans had alongside multiple tweets and Instagram posts that alluded to an upcoming album. And on Feb. 19, The Weeknd dropped the third and final track, “After Hours,” before the official release of the complete album on March 20. Shortly before the release, he announced he will be setting out on tour throughout North America and Europe beginning June 11 in Vancouver, Canada. As of now, The After Hours Tour has not been postponed or canceled due to the recent COVID-19 outbreak.  

The Weeknd’s notorious evocative and witty personality can’t help but produce the intimate, unfiltered music his millions of fans adore. After Hours guides listeners through a never-ending emotional roller coaster throughout the entire duration of the album. All 14 tracks make up a 56-minute run time that manages to keep listeners on edge by integrating climactic lyrics that romanticize risky behavior.  

Photo of “After Hours” album cover courtesy of Pitchfork.

The Weeknd eases into After Hours, beginning with “Alone Again” which is undeniably reminiscent of his previous projects, Beauty Behind the Madness, Starboy, and My Dear Melancholy, where he conveys the feeling of heartbreak and weaves in his experiences with substance abuse. “Alone Again” disappoints with an underwhelming, mellow start to the album. Despite its easy start, it soon increases speed culminating in a stylistically chaotic track. The same holds true for the following tracks, some of which also include a sudden change in rhythm. Like the introduction, the following few songs are mediocre and tempting to skip. 

The casual vibe, “Escape From LA,” radiates late-night drive. It’s somewhat a revival of The Weeknd’s earlier albums and is the beginning of the expertise seen throughout the rest of After Hours. The track compensates for the lackluster energy of the first half of the album. It’s a pivotal phase that has the ability to make or break it. His gentle voice leads through the song fusing with the cadence to create a beautiful piece. If any one song from After Hours could serve as the abstract to The Weeknd’s music career, it would most definitely be “Escape from LA.” 

“Heartless” and “Faith,” launch the album into a bright and fast medley and serve as a balance between the heavy, antagonistic lyrics and upbeat swing. Both tracks begin with a hard beat that cements the mood for the remainder of the song. It almost makes it seem like The Weeknd blended beats from numerous speakeasies and joined them with sorrowful poems to develop an album.

Regardless of how daunting After Hours appears in the limelight, there are brief periods of happiness. 

“Blinding Lights,” “In Your Eyes,” and “Save Your Tears” signify an abrupt shift in style, practically screaming ‘80s bad boy. While he doesn’t shy away from the classic deep-seated lyrics, he applies a swift rhythm that makes fans feel that they’re set in an ‘80s blockbuster movie. These three tracks sweep fans off of their feet with the unique instrumentals, notable lyricism, and hint of nostalgia. To say the least, the placement of the tracks is perfect. Their focus is set on being satirically uplifting and is intended to be a break from the sadness encompassing After Hours.

The final track, “Until I Bleed Out,” is an unnecessary inclusion to After Hours in light of earlier songs. The message in this track is no different than others not only in After Hours but prior studio albums he’s composed. Not suggesting that “Until I Bleed Out” isn’t worthy of commendation but the underlying meaning throughout all of his songs is becoming redundant. The lack of flow and the same anecdote is what easily dismissed this song. The quality of After Hours would be unaffected by removing “Until I Bleed Out” — meaning that in the most polite way possible, of course. But simply put, it’s bland. 

 The inclusion of his title track “After Hours” is a hit-or-miss considering its dynamic nature. It’s a carefully crafted song that has a steady opening and progressively gets faster over the six-minute duration. It flows contrary to previous songs in the album being that the rhythm and lyrics clash together to develop an overall noteworthy piece. The rhythm accommodates the pace of each verse and is the catalyst for an invincible track that could single-handedly eclipse any other. 

 Although The Weeknd’s Starboy and My Dear Melancholy are two obvious elites, After Hours is undoubtedly a close second. The Weeknd brilliantly pieced together an album that pulls listeners to the depths of the darkest kinds of love and the heights of the worst kinds of temptations. After Hours tells the classic story of love and loss, in one of the most hauntingly sincere ways. 

The Weeknd shared in an interview with Apple Music, “You can find love, fear, friends, enemies, violence, dancing, sex, demons, angels, loneliness, and togetherness all in the after hours of the night.”

After Hours is truly sensational.

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