It’s interesting to see The Weeknd go from an indie R&B sensation to one of the biggest pop stars of recent times. This Toronto native’s brand of vulnerable and hedonistic style has found a way to appeal to a wider audience, starting with his trilogy of mixtapes House Of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes Of Silence. His success would continue to grow as he eventually embraced his Michael Jackson influences in the big pop hits like Can’t Feel My Face, In The Night, Starboy, I Feel It Coming, etc. We’re now at album number four from Abel, which is the subject of today’s review. This is After Hours.
1. Alone Again: We begin with Alone Again, which sets the tone for the rest of the album with twinkling synths that eventually transitions to heavier bass and drums. It’s meant to create the distorted feeling of an overdose scare as Abel wants to be reminded of who he is and get him out before it’s too late. Not the best song on the album, but it is a good starting point. I give it a 4/5.
2. Too Late: I’ve seen a lot of people call this the worst song off of After Hours and while I don’t think it’s bad, I can see why because Too Late is one of the weaker points of the album. The production pulls in the soaring synths and UK garage drums that sounds too upbeat for the song’s content. And while we’re on that, The Weeknd is pulling this girl into his self-destructive lifestyle and acknowledging that it’s too late for him. Again, it’s not bad, but the dude is capable of doing much better than this. I give this song a 3/5.
3. Hardest To Love: Did I forget to mention that this album is strongly influenced by the 80s? Because it is. Exhibit A: Hardest To Love, which features reverbed synthwave keys and a liquid drum & bass beat. It’s another instance of The Weeknd opening himself up and being honest about himself as he blames himself for past relationships not working. I give this song a 4/5.
4. Scared To Live: Next is Scared To Live, a break-up ballad where Abel wants to end things on a more positive note and tells this girl not to be scared to love again. It’s a nice sentiment that he can sell and the music goes to recreate that big 80s ballad sound with the swelling synths and the gated drums. The Phil Collins influence is strong with this one. It’s another really good song and I would give it a 4/5.
5. Snowchild: Here’s one of my least favorite songs from the album, where The Weeknd is Auto-Tuned out while partaking in more drug use, sex, and talking about his come-up over muted keys and sparse drums of the production. There’s also that groan-inducing Phillip K. Dick line in the second verse. It’s not the worst song ever, but he’s made better songs of this type before and it’s not something I want to listen to again. It’s a 2.5/5 for me.
6. Escape From L.A.: A good chunk of songs on here are speculated to be about The Weeknd’s former relationship with model Bella Habid. This brings us to Escape From L.A., where he blames the fast-paced debauchery of Los Angeles for the relationship not working out and that they must leave the city for good in order to fix things. There is some T.M.I. lines on here like where he mentions having sex in the studio in the bridge and outro. That aside, this is a damn good song and I would give it a 4.5/5.
7. Heartless: For my thoughts on Heartless, read here. It’s still a 5/5 for me.
8. Faith: We move on to Faith, which is a goddamn banger thanks to the synthwave production that features gothic swells and some punchy grooves. It matches the atmosphere of The Weeknd losing himself in the hedonism of his lifestyle where he’s slowly losing his faith. It’s one of the best songs on the album and I’m giving it another 5/5.
9. Blinding Lights: It’s the number one song in the country (as of this post). I also talked about the song in a Top 40 Review (read here). It’s easily one of, if not, the best song on the entire project and it’s getting a perfect 5/5.
10. In Your Eyes: Next up is In Your Eyes, which is the next single and an obvious choice. It’s a slice of disco/synthpop that comes with a sax solo and The Weeknd giving to his feelings about this girl. This man is really nailing these 80s throwbacks and I would not be surprised if this became a big hit with the right push. I give this a 5/5.
11. Save Your Tears: If there’s a song on this album that has “single potential” written on it, Save Your Tears is one of them thanks to the more upbeat synthwave production that leans heavy into its 80s influence. Despite that, the content isn’t as upbeat as it’s The Weeknd reminiscing on a past relationship while giving his ex the cold shoulder when she sees him. I’d give this song a 3.5/5.
12. Repeat After Me (Interlude): If there’s a song that I would point to as the worst on the album, it would be Repeat After Me (Interlude). It’s where The Weeknd gaslights his ex into loving him instead of her current lover and it’s just gross. The production is cool, especially with Kevin Parker of Tame Impala involved, but it’s not enough for me to get over the content. This is a 2/5 for me, only saved by the production, but barely.
13. After Hours: Now we’re at the title track. At six minutes, it’s the longest track on the entire album. Despite the length, I never felt bored listening to this song, which is a plus. This sounds like the music that The Weeknd used to make in the Trilogy mixtapes with the cold keys and the minimal drums before switching up to a more dance-oriented track later in the song. It’s also one long apology to his ex for all of the wrong that he’s done, contrasting some of the other tracks on this album where he’s much more of an asshole. That’s character arc for ya. This is getting a 4/5 for me.
14. Until I Bleed Out: We’re at the final track of the album, Until I Bleed Out, where Abel is pretty much on the verge of death thanks to an overdose. Thanks to the airy keys and sparse drums, the music creates that paralyzing feeling of numbness like a really bad hangover or, in this case, a near-death experience. It’s not a track that warrants repeated listens, but as a closer, it makes everything in the album come to a full circle, bringing us back to where we started at track one. I give it a 3/5.
Blinding Lights, Faith, Heartless, In Your Eyes, Escape From L.A.
Repeat After Me (Interlude)
I give After Hours a 4/5. This album wears its love of the 80s on its sleeve with the use of synthwave production on the majority of tracks while utilizing the darker, atmospheric indie R&B sound that got eyeballs on The Weeknd in the first place. Its arc is that of a guy indulging in rampant drug use and sex as a way to cope with a relationship that went down the drain. This album took the gothic vulnerability of Trilogy and Kiss Land and combined it with the massive pop appeal of Beauty Behind The Madness and Starboy to make one of the best albums of the year so far. I would say check it out, but chances are most of you have already did. But if you haven’t, well, you know what to do. Check out the album.