Abel Tesfaye, also known as The Weeknd, recently released potentially his most ambitious album yet. The album is dark, heavy and combines elements of his other albums. It brings the 80s synths of Starboy, the vocals of Beauty Behind the Madness, and the lyricism of the Trilogy mixtapes.
The album is loaded with variety and starts off with an incredible intro track, “Alone Again". The track starts with Abel’s voice mostly isolated with some soft synth sounds into a heavy bass for the chorus. The album continues with some fantastic R&B songs that could have come off of Trilogy. I think the best of them being “Too Late” and “Scared To Live”.
After some of Abel’s soft vocal ballads, Abel brings in Metro Boomin for a couple tracks starting at “Escape From LA” and into “Heartless”. From “Heartless”, is when the album transitions and really takes off. The listener is met with a harder vibe with the quintessential Metro Boomin bass. The next song “Faith”, also produced by Metro Boomin, has an outrun or synthwave vibe. This is the perfect lead-in to the most popular single off of the album, “Blinding Lights”, a song that sounds like a radio hit straight out of the 80s with the signature synthesizer for the chorus. Following is “In Your Eyes” and “Save Your Tears” are both solid pop songs that also feature some good beats. “In Your Eyes” has a great saxophone solo in it as well.
As the album comes to a close, the title track and final single of the album, “After Hours”, starts with reverb Abel vocals. His vocals and a soft drum build-up lead to an overwhelming bass drop. To me, this is the strongest song on the entire album and is the perfect Abel song.The album closes with “Until I Bleed Out”. The title says it all as Abel gives his final plea for help in his struggle with drugs and love from a significant other.
Overall, this was one The Weeknd’s most interesting albums with darker themes, 80s synth, R&B ballads and a great aesthetic. The release of the album had a very interesting marketing campaign. The music videos of “Blinding Lights” and “Heartless” display trippy visuals and a new look for Abel. He has white tape covering his nose and bleeding cuts on his face. He is styling very large shades, a thick mustache and a red suit as he stumbles and runs through casinos and dark alleyways. The music videos and album cover also feature a lot of themes of blood and death. On the cover, Abel looks down and smiles with an almost serial killer glare and blood covering his mouth and teeth. The music video for Blinding Lights shows Abel again with blood coated teeth and hysterically laughing on the ground. The vibe shifts as he puts his large glasses back on the speeds around town in his Mercedes. The idea of Abel being different with and without the glasses is shown again in the After Hours film. At the end of performing on Jimmy Kimmel and leaving the studio, Abel roams the dark subway as he emotionally breaks down. He puts his glasses back on and is dragged through the subway (Paranormal Activity style). The video ends with what is inferred as him killing people in the elevator. However, the video for “In Your Eyes” shows one of the people in the elevator running from Abel through the streets and in the club. Eventually the women killed Abel with an axe and danced in the club with his head. It is by far the weirdest of all of the music videos. The most recent music video is for the album’s closing track, “Until I Bleed Out” with Abel seemingly dying at the party. There is confetti flying everywhere and the room is partially a rotating floor. Abel looks around for help, but it seems lost. Finally, he is seen wandering in what seems like a desert. There is a lot of content that has yet to be uncovered or that I did not mention, but I recommend checking out the videos.
Abel has dropped a ridiculous amount of merchandise on his website throughout the past month. The album was first released on March 20th. Three days later, he dropped a deluxe version of the album that added three songs and altered the album cover into a red reflective cover. The three bonus tracks, “Nothing Compares”, “Missed You”, and “Final Lullaby” did not add a lot to the album in my opinion. I will give the tracks some more time, but I think the standalone album was a better album without the addition of these tracks. This was not the end of the music drops for the album. On April 3rd, there were six more tracks added to the deluxe version of the album. They have now been removed and separated into an EP entitled the After Hours (Remixes). This EP features a “Heartless” remix and Vapor Wave remix featuring DeHeala and both remixes featuring Lil Uzi Vert. Lil Uzi Vert released a surprise deluxe version of his album, Eternal Atake, with some old tracks on it. Perhaps Abel was inspired by Uzi’s release format because he followed a similar style. Along with those remixes, Abel released the SNL Live version of “Scared To Live”. My favorite of all the remixes is the “Blinding Lights - Chromatics Remix” with the Portland electronic band Chromatics and Johnny Jewel. I think the remixes were solid, but I was not blown away by any of them. As we reach halfway through April it seems Abel is done dropping new songs for this album.
With the current state of the world, I think everyone needs to see an artist release something truly creative and I think The Weeknd has done that with After Hours. He does some fan service to his original mixtape fans and also expands on them with an entirely new sound that combines to be what I believe to be Abel’s best work yet.