The Weeknd succumbs to his sorrow with ‘After Hours’.


XO, Republic Records

The standard edition cover of The Weeknd's fourth studio album, ‘After Hours’.

Mason Montano, Music Editor

Known for his dark, experimental approach to R&B and captivating falsetto vocals, Canadian singer-songwriter and producer Abel Tesfaye, known professionally as The Weeknd, is a revered artist on the mainstream music scene.

He made his initial debut in late 2010, anonymously uploading songs to YouTube and independently releasing his debut mixtapes House of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes of Silence throughout 2011. The projects received critical acclaim and earned him a cult following that caught the attention of Republic Records, who signed him in September 2012 in a joint venture with his own label imprint, XO.

In response to their massive success, the mixtapes were repackaged as Trilogy in November 2012, and since then, Tesfaye has skyrocketed into mainstream stardom. His debut album, Kiss Land, was released in September 2013 followed by two more records — Beauty Behind the Madness (August 2015), which spawned the hit singles “The Hills” and “Can’t Feel My Face”, and Starboy (November 2016), which spawned the equally successful singles “Starboy” and “I Feel It Coming” that both feature legendary French electronic music duo Daft Punk — and an EP titled My Dear Melancholy, in March 2018.

In November 2018, he confirmed that his next full-length project, dubbed “Chapter VI”, was coming soon, and after a full year of teasing new music, he finally dropped the album’s lead singles, “Heartless” and “Blinding Lights”, in November 2019 before the arrival of his highly anticipated fourth studio album, After Hours, in mid-March.

As opposed to the predominantly dance pop and disco-inspired world of Starboy, After Hours marks a return to the darker, moodier sound of his earlier work that made its initial comeback with My Dear Melancholy, and touches on themes of loneliness, heartbreak, self-loathing, and overindulgence through a combination of alternative R&B, hip-hop, synth pop, and new wave.

The lyrical content was heavily inspired by Tesfaye’s tumultuous relationship with American model Bella Hadid — The pair dated on-and-off since early 2015 and most recently split in mid-2019 — and the record’s overall aesthetics draw inspiration from various films; including American epic crime drama Casino, American psychedelic satirical black comedy Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, American psychological thriller Joker, and American crime thriller Uncut Gems.

In an interview with Apple Music, he explained the meaning of the album’s title in relation to its narrative, stating: 

“You can find love, fear, friends, enemies, violence, dancing, sex, demons, angels, loneliness, and togetherness all in the after-hours of the night.”

The story commences with the haunting opening track, “Alone Again”, on which Tesfaye addresses substance abuse and an overdose scare while pleading for his lover to stay with him to help him get better. The twinkling production at the beginning dissolves into hard-hitting bass to represent the fall from a fading high to rock bottom, setting the tone for the rest of the tracklist.

The next two tracks, “Too Late” and “Hardest To Love”, see him reminiscing about his actions in a past relationship and blaming himself for the way it ended — a common trend in his discography that’s continued by “Scared To Live”, with Tesfaye encouraging his ex to find a new lover who will treat her better than he did.

“Snowchild” is a more gentle moment and a palate cleanser from the heartbreak-filled openers that gives an introspective look at his quick rise to fame as well as a deep dive into his past vices, such as drugs and toxic lovers. The former is referenced by the song’s title, as “snow” is a slang term for cocaine.

The deeply personal, nostalgic feel of “Snowchild” is further expanded by “Escape from LA” — the darkest song on the album and an intimate confession of the infidelity in his relationship with Hadid, however, Tesfaye chalks up their problems to the fast-paced environment of Los Angeles, concluding that the two must get out of the city in order to be happy — an escape that unfortunately never happened.

After Hours then departs from all of the darkness with dreamy, upbeat, 1980s-inspired bops like “Blinding Lights”; the third single, “In Your Eyes”; and “Save Your Tears”. All three have hedonistic themes and discuss living a carefree life of sin with your partner that starkly contrasts the heavy subject matter of the previous tracks, and as with all of his albums, Tesfaye has crafted a cinematic universe for After Hours with the music videos. The video for “In Your Eyes” is especially worth noting due to its strong influences from iconic American slasher films, specifically The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and features an intense chase between a serial killer (Tesfaye) and his victim (portrayed by American actress and model Zaina Miuccia).

The darkness returns on the title track and lead promotional single, which depicts the pain of heartbreak while serving as an apology for his past transgressions as he longs to reconnect with his ex, and his journey comes to a close with “Until I Bleed Out” — an emotional number that uses blood and bleeding out as a metaphor for Tesfaye having run out of energy after enduring the countless tragic experiences that occur over the course of the record, thus succumbing to his sorrow.

After Hours was met with universal acclaim upon its release and has been hailed as Tesfaye’s best work to date, as it’s a refinement of his sound and image that gives an in-depth look at his personal struggles while showcasing his exquisite taste level, solidifying his status as a pop icon.

After Hours is available now across all online and streaming platforms.

Stream After Hours on Spotify: 

Watch the music video for “In Your Eyes”: