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Following the success of The Weeknd’s album Starboy and the EP My Dear Melancholy, Abel Tesfaye’s creative direction was uncertain. Many of his fans hoped that he would return to the dark tone of the House of Balloons mixtape which generated much of the popularity that made him famous in the first place. With his new album After Hours, we see a brand-new persona with The Weeknd embodying the drug-riddled and fast-paced lifestyle of the Las Vegas scene. The album deals with an overarching theme of love. It is not the soft mushy relationships that are depicted in Disney movies, but the type of dysfunctional love/hate connections that Abel has with drugs, sex, and relationships.
This amazing production from Metro Boomin’, Illangelo, and Oneohtrix Point Never shines in accordance with The Weeknd’s hypnotic and chilling voice. The album has no features but never feels empty, with Abel’s deep and emotional vocal performances being center stage. This is most evident on the opening track “Alone Again”, and the heartbreaking ballad “Scared to Live”.
“Snowchild” and “Escape from LA” outline the rawer feelings that Abel has to deal with, and reflect on his past in the streets of Toronto. The two synth-pop singles from the album “Heartless” and “Blinding Lights” are perfect images of the villainous life in Vegas, and transition seamlessly from the track “Faith”. The latter song is amazing on its own, and it manages to incorporate aspects of its surrounding tracks which just makes it better.
“In Your Eyes” and “Save Your Tears”are the only tracks that I feel I could go without. They are more synth-pop tracks, and even though they are decent enough songs, I do feel like they could’ve been replaced by a bonus track like “Nothing Compares”.
The final three tracks begin the descent into darkness as we see Abel addressing a past lover and his need for them in “After Hours”. He promises to hold her down and protect her heart better than before. This is followed by the dreary finale of “Until I Bleed Out”, the closing track which sees Abel face the truth that the toxicity he has depended on for so long is just burying him deeper. He wants to forcibly remove the hurting of love and drugs from himself but can’t because they have become so vital to him.
I love this album very much and feel that while this is a new version of The Weeknd, he has brought back the style and tone which fans love. His influences and setting match the lyrical content nicely, and all of the songs sound smooth in mixing and production. I think this is one of his best works to date, and I look forward to seeing more.
Originally Published on www.bandersnatch.ca Vol.49 Issue 13 on April 15th, 2020