'After Hours': The Weeknd's latest album captures gloomy aesthetic, pop-star dreams
The melodrama we have all been craving has finally arrived. The Weeknd released his fourth studio album, “After Hours,” by XO and Republic Records on March 20.
The 14-song project is packed with traditional The Weeknd notes of heartbreak, drugs, sex and chaos. Although each song is its own unique creation, each one comes together to balance the dark and gloomy aesthetic we know from his earlier years of “Trilogy” with his pop ambitions of “Starboy.”
With the release of three successful singles prior to the album, “Heartless,” “Blinding Lights” and “After Hours,” a generation of XO fans knew they were in for what could potentially be the best The Weeknd album to date.
The opening track of "After Hours," “Alone Again,” features '80s synthesizers that transition into a harder hitting beat of bass and drums, while The Weeknd addresses his overdose scare, begging his lover to help him overcome his demons.
The rest of the album is consistent with these electronic, yet hard-hitting beats produced by well-known names. Max Martin, Illangelo and Metro Boomin, long-time collaborators with The Weeknd, appear consistently throughout the album. With incredibly smooth transitions between songs, like the seamless transition between “Hardest To Love” and “Scared To Live,” you had to know there were big-name producers behind the scenes.
My personal favorite producer on the album? Kevin Parker, the genius behind Tame Impala who has produced for most of your favorite artists, including Travis Scott, A$AP Rocky and Rihanna. He appears on the album in a vocal introduction on “Repeat After Me (Interlude)” which features Parker’s signature synth and psychedelia-heavy production.
In addition to featuring well-known producers, The Weeknd also shows respect to Elton John on the track “Scared To Live,” where he uses an interpolation of John’s “Your Song.”
The album as a whole comes and goes like a storm. Starting off slow and reflective in the first few songs such as “Snowchild,” which tells the story of The Weeknd’s past. He talks about his rise to fame and drug-ridden past and remembers giving back to the people who supported him from the beginning.
After “Snowchild” comes “Escape From LA,” which is one of the darkest moments of the album. The Weeknd beautifully encapsulates the chaotic environment that is Los Angeles and how the fast-paced lifestyle affected his relationship with his lover. (Yes, everyone seems to be in agreement the entire album is referring to The Weeknd’s ex-lover, supermodel Bella Hadid).
The storm gains speed with “Heartless” and continues to be organized chaos through “Save Your Tears,” another synth-heavy track that feels lighter than the darkness of the earlier songs of the album, yet with just as cold of a story.
The storm slows during the interlude and calms for the last two songs, finishing with “Until I Bleed Out.” In his final track, The Weeknd reflects on feeling drained and out of energy, and that he has given up.
In my own opinion, “Faith” is the best song on the album and a true masterpiece. Produced by Metro Boomin, the eighth track on "After Hours" gives The Weeknd’s fans a classic mix that we had been begging for. Lyrically, it reflects all things of The Weeknd: A relapse on drugs and a love song so heartbreakingly beautiful, it romanticizes his possible overdose. What’s more The Weeknd than that?
"After Hours" was truly a success, with not a single forgettable track. The album perfectly manifests who The Weeknd was with who he is destined to be. His original generation of fans from his 2011 debut mixtape, "House of Balloons," and a younger generation of fans in the current era, are all sure to be satisfied with "After Hours."
The Weeknd himself, born Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, is a Canadian singer, songwriter and record producer. He is a three-time Grammy Awards winning artist, among other prestigious achievements in the industry.
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