It can be easily argued that Toronto artist The Weeknd can be mostly credited for the success of pop-infused R&B over the past few years. His distinct approach to R&B and his ability to fuse the genre with the sounds of ’80s funk and electro have earned him critical praise and global recognition. After releasing three monumentally successful singles —teasing fans for almost four years —The Weeknd has come back in full force with “After Hours,” his fourth studio project.
This album tells the story of The Weeknd as he attempts to make sense of his feelings toward intimacy and love. Admittedly, his efforts to do so leave him as a damaged and conflicted mess. In fact, the first line on the opening track, titled “Alone Again,” is “Take off my disguise, I'm living someone else's life.” This track describes a man who desperately yearns for the companionship of a past lover. The way the song evolves from a skeletal melody into a more lively trap beat accurately describes the rising pain The Weeknd feels.
“Blinding Lights,” “Heartbreak” and “After Hours” are truly sensational singles that serve as solid indications of this album’s sonic palette. This time around, The Weeknd fully dives into the iconic sounds of the ’80s with heavy synths, groove-infused melodies, and 808s for added taste. However, he ensures his brand of moody, spacy R&B is caked into every track. Even with this formula, The Weeknd is able to thematically present a duality between his sex-filled, careless lifestyle and his self-loathing, apologetic mentality.
“Hardest To Love,” while a track backed with oddly fast-paced kickdrums for the subject matter, essentially trashes his toxic behavior in relationships. Lines such as, “I can't, can't believe you want me after all the heartbreak, after all I've done,” along with lines that convey his broken state of mind, are only a sample of The Weeknd’s chaotic sadness on this project.
On the topic of The Weeknd’s more self-destructive side, the track after “Heartless,” titled “Faith,” is a tried-and-true drug-filled, hedonistic song. Also produced by the talented Metro Boomin, this song finds The Weeknd reverting back to his old ways: heavily indulging in various drugs to escape his heartbreak. The somber production is a solid indicator for the desperation The Weeknd possesses when it comes to covering up his sorrow, which lyrically and thematically flows perfectly into “Blinding Lights.”
In terms of irresistibly catchy tracks, one should look no further than “In Your Eyes” and “Save Your Tears.” The former is a disco song the listener will struggle not to dance to, and contains an absolutely mesmerizing saxophone solo at the end. The latter is a synth-heavy delight that has some solid vocals and kickdrums.
The Weeknd has always been an artist who’s worn his emotions on his sleeve, and this trait has led to a dip in quality at certain times. “Snowchild” is an example of him drowning in his misery to the point where his delivery is off, and “Escape From LA” is where the songwriting quality somewhat nosedives. His overly echoey voice doesn’t exactly do the subject matter justice either, which grows more uninteresting as the track goes on.
Despite these small imperfections, “After Hours” is, without a doubt, one of the best projects The Weeknd has ever released. The way he plays with the sounds of the ’80s on the production of these songs is sure to entertain listeners throughout the 56 minutes this album offers. It seems like The Weeknd will continue to dominate the charts with his disarrayed, lovesick mind for the foreseeable future, and the unique brand of R&B that mind accompanies.
Contact Julian Denizard at email@example.com. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze