Album review: After Hours by The Weeknd

Kyle Atkinson

Since he burst onto the scene in the early 2010s, The Weeknd has been a consistently-evolving artist. He originally began with a traditional R&B sound before shifting to more pop-influenced music. It is known at this point that whenever he’s ready to release a new album, everyone should pay attention. After a nearly four year long wait, The Weeknd is back with After Hours

The album rollout for After Hours began in late November 2019 with the release of “Heartless” and “Blinding Lights”. The cover art for these tracks can only be described as very 1980s influenced. The variance in styles for these singles, along with “After Hours”, made many fans very excited. With the album finally released, it is time to dig in. Here is my review of The Weeknd’s fourth studio album After Hours

After Hours review

I’ll be honest here, I wasn’t the biggest fan of this album on my first listen through. Starboy was such an amazing album and I felt that this project didn’t even stand close to it. It didn’t have any bangers like “Starboy”, “Reminder”, or “Sidewalks”, so I was a little let down. These differences made me feel that maybe the album’s singles were the best tracks and nothing else was worth listening to. But as usual when I feel like this, I was wrong. The Weeknd finally gave us a conceptual album.

Upon my second and third listens through the album, it all began clicking for me. This album was supposed to be more of a callback to Abel’s roots in R&B with a mix of his Starboy style. I realized that we still got the experimental side from Starboy infused into some tracks as well as his new 80s-derived style. He has explored new territory here while also staying true to what his fans love. There is something for everyone here.  

To me, After Hours plays like a breakup album (perhaps based on his breakup with Bella Hadid). It begins with the sadness of being “Alone Again”; he’s not sure if he can take this heartbreak. Later, the album transitions through many different feelings including remorse (“Hardest To Love” and “Scared To Live”), cockiness (“Heartless” and “Save Your Tears”), depression (“After Hours”), and desperation (“Until I Bleed Out”). It seems that he’s at war with himself and the women he is having issues with, like he can’t get his feelings straight. 

 

Sonically, the project is quite amazing. It has without a doubt grown on me and I think it’ll continue to do so as time goes on. Experimental sounds fill many of the songs, such as on “Too Late”, “In Your Eyes”, and “Faith”. We’ve also got traditional R&B, pop, and a bit of his sing-rap style here. This difference in sound throughout the album can make it seem all over the place, but it makes a lot more sense if you listen to the lyrics and pay attention to the track sequencing. This is a man struggling with a heavily emotional event and it is meant to sound scattered.      

Standouts

Clocking in at 56 minutes, the album is not a chore to get through. It is an enjoyable listen all the way through, especially because of all the different sounds. It’s a grab bag but in the best way possible. The Weeknd is an artist that can truly do it all, and he continues to prove that on this record. Standouts from his fourth album are “Too Late”, “Snowchild”, “Blinding Lights”, “In Your Eyes”, and “Escape From LA”. These songs give the best idea of how the project sounds with a little taste of it all. 

Final thoughts

I’ve been a fan of The Weeknd since the beginning. I’ve been through it all from the random music uploads, the cryptic teases, his explosion of fame, etc. He’s got great albums under his belt, but I’m not sure that any of them are really considered classics. There are a few cash grabs here and there (looking at you Beauty Behind The Madness), but everything else has been good. Regardless of how good his past music has been, none of his albums have made my jaw drop. Until now. 

After Hours is far-and-away The Weeknd’s best album. It is a culmination of all of his styles done in a tasteful way. The aesthetic, lyrics, beats, and even the merch has been incredible. This is the full package and I’m so satisfied with what we’ve got here. You can really tell that he put an insane amount of effort into perfecting this and he should be proud. If you’re an R&B fan even in the slightest, you should give After Hours a listen. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with this high quality music. We could (should be) looking at a front runner for Album of the Year at the 2021 Grammy Awards.     

Score: 8.5/10

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