THE WEEKND After Hours gets 9/10

The Weeknd
After Hours
XO/Republic Records


Smooth, nostalgic and chart-topping, The Weeknd’s new album After Hours has well and truly arrived. Sound-wise, it’s more Trilogy or Kissland than Starboy, but that doesn’t mean it’s not pop. The 80s glow envelopes each track, creating a defining new era for singer-songwriter, Abel Tesfaye.

With his most personal album yet, After Hours presents a 14-track exploration of past relationships, self-reflection and in true Weeknd style, a drug reference or two. It’s still sexy and pop-based, but the synth-wave dreaminess defines this album and pushes genre boundaries. 

Hardest to Love is the first standout track, with its skittering drum and bass backing and silky smooth vocals. As he reminiscences on past relationships and his behaviour in them, it explores this deeply personal reflection with an emotional bridge, expressing: “I can’t believe you want me/ After all the heartbreaks, after all I’ve done/ Can’t believe you trust me/After all the rough days, you still call me up.” In a raw moment, we see the usual full-of-self-love star take the blame for his mistake.

Scared to Live again offers this softer side of the collection and showcases the range of Tesfaye’s vocal genius. A ballad highlighting a breakup that left another person doubting love and relationships altogether, we see him taking of ownership around this. The smooth, punchy beat is a classic Weekend backdrop for such a track. The muted synth-rock sound continues throughout, with each track offering a different sound but keeping with the overall feel of the album. It becomes clearer and clearer as to why Tesfaye is one of today’s most revered artists.

Blinding Lights is the most upbeat, dance-worthy track, but that’s not to say it’s all surface. As an ode to a lover offering a break from the constant distractions of fame, this tune is an earworm most will recognise by now as the second single. It is the pinnacle of 80s aesthetic throughout the album and a welcome escape from the generic. In a similarly nostalgic vein, Save Your Tears drips with a muted instrumental that carries the melancholic message with an upbeat backing. A true continuation of narrative, this track shines as a soon to be fan favourite.

Title track After Hours is the longest on the record hitting on six minutes. It is a lethargic and caressing apology to a lover presenting the desire to reconcile. Dripping with vibes from his first release Trilogy, After Hours is the perfect culmination of both career and album. As the beat picks up, so does the begging to stay with passionate lines including, “Where are you now when I need you most?/ I’d give it all just to hold you close.”

This fourth official studio album introduces a glitchy pop element to The Weeknd’s discography with iconic vocals, cinematic flair and ever catchy tracks to get you through your self-isolation. With no guest vocalists, we see Tesfaye shine in this new wave of dream pop, and something tells us he’s far from done yet.


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