The Weeknd - After Hours
Mar 20, 2020 (updated Mar 20, 2020)
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The Weeknd/Abel Tesfaye is one of those artists that are so incredibly influential in heralding in an entirely new wave of musical culture, whose discography is unfortunately not of the highest quality from album to album. Call it an anomaly of some sort it is a paradox that has continued to occur with several artists of the last couple decades such as Drake and Chris Brown. Now, you could look at this with several different angles: for one you could view his albums as an extension of that singular sound of alternative RnB he crafted where it is obvious he was one of the first to make music in that style but ultimately never progressed it beyond its conception. The problem is that that initial sound never actually progressed, beyond his trilogy of mixtapes, it just stayed stagnant and allowed newer artists to grab his recipe and run off with it to try and make their own successful copy of it. But in any case, Abel deserves a lot of credit for essentially being one of the most influential architects of popular 2010s music culture and beyond. There is no question that Abel is visionary, but over the past ten years, he appears to have been bogged down by his own sound. There were the initial experimental RnB songs that were attached to his mixtape trilogy; the most gratifying of the bunch being Echoes of Silence, followed by “ Beauty Behind the Madness” where his sound started to become lackluster and repeatedly trodden-over. While the project featured several notable and decade-defining cuts the project was evidently bloated and scattered. Then in 2016, Abel showed signs of resurgence after enlisting Daft Punk and others for Starboy, his most complete musical offering up until this point. Starboy, although not wholly satisfying, hinted at a direction that could progress his style, a progression that offered a more cinematic and completed vision. The weakest aspect of any Weeknd project from my perspective is that his lyricism suffers quite a bit while the general “sound” of his records is what keeps the ship from sinking. 2018, boasted another release from Abel in the form of an EP and was his weakest project to date that was devoid of any effort and ingenuity. Even though one can make a pretty powerful case against the bulk of The Weeknd’s discography being not of the best quality, there is no ignoring the fact that the complete sound and vision he crafted was one of the most powerful musical movements of the 2010s. The persona of Abel Tesfaye of The Weeknd through his music has always been interesting to me and I genuinely saw hints of potential that would someday emerge, I believe we are witnessing that very idea on his latest offering “After Hours”, at long last.

First off, “After Hours” is incredibly SEAMLESS, nearly every track here falls in conjunction with one another providing a cinematic experience. Surprisingly, its a cohesive, smooth, and compelling listen. As for the sound of the record, I feel as if The Weeknd has finally capitalized on his initial sound found on his mixtapes, and has made something that is complete and more than an individual song collection, but a project in which every track is a part of the whole. This time around everything is bumped up to another level, especially the production which is ultimately what sets the album apart from anything he previously accomplished. As I was listening, I noticed the album seemed to be divided into three sections, the first four songs were these incredible multi-layered almost menacing synth-passage constructions set against spiraling arpeggios and brooding sub-bass. Take the vast atmospheres on “Alone Again” where a trap beat is actually worked successfully into the production, or “Too Late” where the beat doesn’t feel out-of-place next to the swelling synths and Abel’s commanding falsetto. Or the excellent “Hardest to Love” which is one of the most gratifying on the record with the drum n bass beat and while the chord progressions are somewhat typical it nevertheless is a breath of fresh air compared to a handful of other “The Weeknd” cuts, which then divulges into “Scared to Love” offering a slowed-tempo, borrowing the chord progression from the previous track but including a different beat.

In the middle of the album, the next stylistic progression comes into play starting with “Snowchild” and is, unfortunately, a dip in quality, and sees Abel reverting back into Starboy territory, with a traditional trap-beat front and center with not much happening around it, followed by the tedious and obnoxious “Escape from LA” an overlong trap slop with terrible songwriting as he meanders about singing meaninglessly, and finally the last track in the middle section “Heartless” which is arguably the best of the trio and successfully steers the album into a better direction.
The last seven track-run of the album is massively reassuring with overall better production significantly 80s influenced and more gratifying songwriting. It’s the synth immersive 80s inspired “Blinding Lights” as one of the best The Weeknd songs in a while, the similarly 80s heavy pop psychedelia with descending chord progressions and 4/4 beat, the seemingly Depeche mode inspiration behind “Save Your Tears”, the six-minute behemoth that is “After Hours” possibly the best-structured track on the album with an interesting time-signature and minimal production, which is in the end very rewarding when the beat arrives led in by those staccato eighth notes. Finally, the album is ended with “Until I Bleed Out” and while it does follow similar suit to the rest of the album, it’s not the strongest closer that I’ve ever heard but it gets the job done.

Arguably the albums weakest aspect is the lyricism, which toward the second half does start to pick up in quality, many of the songs' narratives are uncompelling, but instead of taking his usual carefree attitude in a relationship, he comes to his lover more surrendered and begging for love.
Strictly for The Weeknd, this album is a success, not for the genre, but for himself and compared to all of his albums preceding it. “After Hours” accomplishes a sense of completion and roundedness that is usually foreign on his albums with an obvious appreciation for rhythm and texture. It's an album that at one moment can sound dystopian and desolate, only to burst into radiant flames of passion. “After Hours” is Abel taking back the keys to what he initially unlocked and is painting a picture of glamour and passion, of desolation and glory, from defeat to triumph.

Best Track- After Hours
Worst Track- Escape from LA
thejacktackshac's Tags
2 Comments
Mar 23, 2020
Great review, probably the best review I have seen for this album!
Mar 24, 2020
@okcomputer12127 wow, so kind of you! Thank you so much!
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