The Weeknd - After Hours
Mar 20, 2020 (updated Mar 23, 2020)
74
The Weeknd reinvents himself as the Scorsese of Pop music.

Abel Tesfaye knows he has nothing more to prove about its already international and award-winning success. With this in mind, he wanted to use this notoriety to give high art to our sad world, a more refined work than its previous albums, leaving behind the dull commercial habits of most mainstream artists. Between eighities obsessions and cinematographic references, will this new collection of tracks "heal" us as Abel says?

It's thus in a context of generalized confinement that The Weeknd released his long-awaited fourth album, "After Hours", without knowing if this release is due to an unstoppable communication machine or to the insane impatience of the fans multiplied tenfold by these long hours spent at home. In any case, and it's a good thing in these anxious times, this release is more than ever an opportunity for the Canadian singer to tell us a story. Did he enjoy this blurred universe between fiction and reality when he appeared in the Safdie Brothers' urban thriller "Uncut Gems"?

One thing's for sure, "After Hours" (what a pleasure, a reference to Martin Scorsese!) is bathed in a violent cinematic atmosphere. Abel Tesfaye appears since the beginning of the record promotion in a red suit that seems to refer as much to the mafia of Uncle Scorcese's "Casino" as to Todd Phillips' "Joker", this scripted character being moreover very representative of this Theater of notoriety that celebrities have to play. If his ice-cold and electronic R&B, tinged with indie pop influences, passes the test of time perfectly, the often cheap packaging and the egotrip of his previous recordings were until now cruelly lacking in conceptual depth (as witnessed by "Starboy" in 2016). And this ambitious and personal new album clearly seeks to remedy this.

Although he has summoned his usual team to the studio, Tesfaye seems more than ever obsessed with the synthetic pop of the 1980s. A guideline that he leaves on "After Hours" only the time of "Too Late", and its enchanting 2-step rhythmics. The great quality of this fourth studio album's production is thus the coherence of his sound universe, both powerful and icy, which even allows itself some experimental incarnations like on the introduction "Alone Again". If it totally excludes featurings, the record is not free of collaborations. On "Repeat After Me", we can find Tame Impala's head, Kevin Parker, who plays psychedelic FM pop on antidepressants of which he is now the king craftsman, or the great Oneohtrix Point Never on "Scared to Live", a kind of remake of "Your Song" by Elton John.

With "After Hours", The Weeknd seems once again to want to follow in the footsteps of the pop giants. Having become over time a disturbing Michael Jackson vocal look-alike, Tesfaye is in a violent struggle with the contradictions of today's pop music. Obsessed with a past he wants to equalize and the fear of losing the first place of the mainstream podium, he marks a step aside with "After Hours" and his character of a singer in an old-fashioned suit. With a broken nose, a bloody face, the singer appears groggy, without anyone knowing who destroyed his face: an unhappy lover or his exhausting status of a pop star who will never reach the legendary heights of his spiritual fathers and mothers.

Yet it would be a shame to reduce "After Hours" to a record of quotations or the Stranger Things of pop music. The Weeknd shines there at enough moments to make us fall in love with his silky, dark and catchy productions. Let's bet that this conceptual and sonic reinvention will allow him to impose himself alongside those who rarely manage to transcend genres and eras at the top of the Billboard hot 100. "After Hours" is an invitation to a journey, exactly what we needed in this period of confinement, and a journey that I hope will reach as many people as possible.

Best tracks: "After Hours", "Blinding Lights", "In Your Eyes", "Too Late", "Alone Again", "Save Your Tears", "Heartless".

Worst track: "Escape From LA"
WhatTheFunk's Tags
5 Comments
Mar 21, 2020
I fail to see what exactly you don’t like about the record
Mar 21, 2020
@Kuru First of all, know that this album is really very close to a Light 8/10 for me. I gave this rating in comparison with my appreciation of his previous albums and I still clearly prefer his mixtapes "House of Balloons" and "Echoes of Silence" (2 strong 8s for me) because of the darker atmosphere and the memorable songs that marked my teenage years. More objectively, although this album is ambitious and stellar in terms of production, Abel continues to try to follow in the footsteps of the pop giants that preceded it, and it's sometimes a bit too visible, like in "Scared to Live" which imitates the melody of Elton John's "Your Song". But overall it's a very good album that I really liked, and I can totally see why the fans like it so much :)
Mar 21, 2020
Thank you for responding to me in such an extensive fashion, the review makes so much more sense now!
Mar 22, 2020
That reference and comparison is so cool. Nice review!
Mar 22, 2020
@vicxfb Thanks man :)
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