After Hours is out via Republic Records

Abel Tesfaye AKA The Weeknd is back with his hugely anticipated album, After Hours, his first full-length since 2016’s Starboy. Unlike Starboy, which drifted deep into glam pop territory, his latest release returns to the dark, moodiness of 2012’s Trilogy. The release that arguably cemented Tesfaye as the poster child for sad boy R&B. While the themes and certain sonic elements might be familiar, After Hours brings a fresh production style that leans into 80s synthwave and danceable, bass-heavy beats.
 

As to be expected from The Weeknd, After Hours enlists a powerhouse roster of producers and frequent collaborators including Metro Boomin, Illangelo, Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, and super-producer Max Martin. Each lending their own touch to an incredibly intricate spectrum of sounds and moods. With a record-breaking 1 million pre-saves on Apple Music, After Hours is likely to be one of the biggest releases of 2020 and in this writer’s opinion, set a tone for future releases this year. Get ready for more 80s new wave inspired music.
 

“Alone Again” serves as the perfect opener to set the tone. Brooding with signature Tesfaye sensibility, the track opens with a fluttering, warm synth before building into a hard-hitting syncopation of hypnotic bass and Tesfaye’s haunting layered vocals. The track lets listeners know from the start what they’re getting into – a deep dive into post-breakup introspection set against a stunningly atmospheric sonic backdrop.
 


 

We first got a taste of things to come from The Weeknd last November when lead single “Heartless” dropped. With little more than a few cryptic Instagram posts, for many, the release was a clear teaser of the album fans had long been awaiting. It didn’t disappoint with “Heartless” coming in swinging from the start. On the Metro Boomin’-produced track, Tesfaye sings with a tinge of self-loathing and remorse: “Tryna be a better man, but I’m heartless, low life for life ‘cause I’m heartless.” Released a mere two days later, “Blinding Lights” brought a slightly punchier, pop-driven sound than “Heartless.” Produced by Max Martin, “Blinding Lights” is a synth-pop banger that feels like it could have come straight out of 1984. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed not to feel the similarities between its catchy beat and that of a-ha’s 80’s smash hit “Take on Me.” There’s also a likeness to Kavinsky’s own ode to 80s nostalgia, the arpeggio laden “Nightcall” from his 1986 EP.
 
Nestled amongst the brooding darkness of After Hours sits an outlier – the ballad “Scared to Live.” Acknowledging his part in a failed relationship, Tesfaye wants his former flame to know not to be “scared to live again.” It’s a hopeful, uplifting addition to the album that also makes good use of a sample from Elton John’s beloved 1970 hit “Your Song.” Through all the emotional peaks and valleys of After Hours, it does an excellent job of staying true to the overarching narrative of lovers lament.
 

The final track, “Until I Bleed Out” finishes Tesfaye’s emotional journey with a turning point. “I don’t wanna touch the sky no more, I just wanna feel the ground when I’m coming down.” Tesfaye’s given all he can give to After Hours, both emotionally and creatively and it shows. It’s a roller coaster musical journey that listeners will no doubt, feel every ounce of. Listen below.
 


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