“You can find love, fear, friends, enemies, violence, dancing, sex, demons, angels, loneliness and togetherness all in the After Hours of the night.” – The Weeknd
Listening to The Weeknd’s After Hours for the first time rendered me speechless. The recently released fourth studio album’s raw and dark qualities took me by a much-welcomed surprise. Even more surprising was how effortlessly the contrasting mix of beats complemented these qualities, resulting in a concoction of both gaiety and melancholy.
The opening track “Alone Again” manifests the immaculate production of this album. Its layered mix of fluttering beats, soft electronic echoes, and grim synth whirr evolve into a more lively trap beat that instantly transports you to a whole other world and leaves you both devastated and elated.
Seamlessly, the slightly more fast-paced track “Too Late” starts to fill the space with syncopated kicks and pitch-shifted echoes that are borrowed from the UK garage genre. This glistening track is the first of many ballads on the album rumoured to be narrating his tumultuous relationship with on and off again girlfriend Bella Hadid.
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The third track titled “Hardest to Love” continues the ballad with a nineties-evoking drum ‘n’ bass influence, alleviating us ever so slightly from the harsh reality of his crippling loneliness. This transitions smoothly into “Scared to Live” which features a slowness and rhythmic ebb that perfectly matches The Weeknd’s vocals.
There is a clear distinction between the first and second half of the album. From the track “Heartless” the progressions continue to intensify and we move away from the broken-hearted ballads to songs about drug-fueled nights. The Weeknd sings about cutting away his pain with a variety of drugs in the track “Faith” and ends the song singing “I ended up in the back of a flashing car” as ambulance sirens ring in the background. An eerie and dark twist that leaves a hollow feeling in the pit of your stomach.
We are quickly brought back to life by the much more upbeat dance number “Blinding Lights”. Its early 80s influence, with vintage gated-drum sounds and echo-drenched synthesizers, is the well-timed pick-me-up that perfectly balances the highs and lows experienced with this album.
The disco-fueled track “In Your Eyes” is another riveting dance number boosted by a somewhat nostalgic screaming saxophone solo. The song is matched with an equally nostalgic visual reminiscent of classic 80s slasher films. The music video picks up where the brilliant short film “After Hours” left off, with Abel Tesfaye stalking a young woman with a massive knife at an after-hours dance party.
Check it out below:
“After Hours” is the second last track on the album and another spellbinding song that suddenly erupts into a dance production. The song’s electro-tinged switch-up injects another layer to The Weeknd’s ghostly falsetto, compelling you to move.
The Weeknd’s After Hours is a stunningly cohesive and superbly atmospheric album. It is incredibly raw and dark with just enough glimmer that lifts the album into moments of radiating brightness. And that is the beauty of this album.
Image source: theweeknd.com