Abel Tesfaye of Toronto, known to many as Grammy-award-winning artist, The Weeknd, released his fourth album, “After Hours,” on Friday, almost four years since his last full-length album, “Starboy.”
In the four years since “Starboy,” he released a small EP titled “My Dear Melancholy,” and was featured on many high-profile projects including the Kendrick Lamar-curated “Black Panther” soundtrack album. The Weeknd also made his acting debut, playing a fictional version of himself in the critically-acclaimed film “Uncut Gems,” starring Adam Sandler in late 2019.
The Weeknd began teasing the album with the two singles, “Heartless” and “Blinding Lights,” in Nov. 2019. Finally, in February The Weeknd announced the album and released the title track “After Hours.”
A bulk of the production was handled by some of The Weeknd’s usual partners: Illangelo, Metro Boomin and renowned pop music producer Max Martin, who worked with The Weeknd previously on the chart-topping song, “Can’t Feel My Face,” in 2015.
The album does not boast any features, but there are two notable guests appearing as producers and writers: Kevin Parker, known as Tame Impala, and Daniel Lopatin, known as Oneohtrix Point Never, who also composed the score for “Uncut Gems.”
The album flirts with The Weeknd’s usual subjects of drug use, hedonism and lust; similarly, the album continues to explore his dark, mysterious style of alternative pop/R&B. In “After Hours,” The Weeknd added elements to his repertoire, specifically the 1980s influence that controls the album.
These 80s tropes come in the way of retro synths and glamorous build-ups. For example, “In Your Eyes,” features a horn section with trumpets and saxophones that’s begging to be the theme of an 80s film. Even songs that do not directly feature these elements feel like they come from the “Blade Runner” soundtrack because of the dark, atmospheric and warped synths that add a new mysteriousness to The Weeknd’s vocals.
The album is paced beautifully, and with the added context one might discover a newfound love for the singles released previously. “After Hours,” parallels his diminishing mental state after a breakup, where The Weeknd originally seems apologetic then quickly becomes arrogant with his own self-pity.
One of the album highlights, “Scared to Live,” a smooth ballad in which Tesfaye encourages his ex-lover to move on, does a marvelous job of capturing the guilt of ending a relationship.
On “Faith,” The Weeknd faces his actions and spirals further into trouble while using drugs to artificially fill a void that the relationship left. The song ends with the line, “I ended up in the back of a flashing car.”
The ideas and concepts are capped off by the penultimate and title track, “After Hours:” a progressive track that bounces between an R&B ballad and a garage-house apology where The Weeknd’s love for the fast-life fades away to reveal sadness and vulnerability.
Fans of The Weeknd that are looking for songs about wild nights and toxic relationships no longer have to wait. Despite the lack of diverse content in Tesfaye’s catalog, fans should appreciate that “After Hours” is a complete and thorough project that satisfies from start to end, and puts some of his past writing to shame.
“You can find love, fear, friends, enemies, violence, dancing, sex, demons, angels, loneliness and togetherness all in the After Hours of the night,” said The Weeknd to Apple Music.