Release Date: Mar 20, 2020
Record label: Island
During the dying embers of "Until I Bleed Out," the final song on The Weeknd's After Hours album, he makes a simple yet saddening claim: "I keep telling myself I don't need it anymore." The "it" refers to a few things -- the cacophony of drugs in his bloodstream that's paralyzing his body, and the woman of his dreams doing the same to his mind. Dating back to 2019, the road to this discovery has been blistering. Music videos for "Heartless" and "Blinding Lights" focused on the electrifying highs of his vices that kept him coming back.
The first two singles off After Hours were released within three days of each other in November 2019. "Heartless," a boastful belter made with Metro Boomin, Illangelo, and Dre Moon, ticked all the boxes to please Abel Tesfaye's base. Pills, cars, fame, women, and the hard-fought reward for all the overindulgence -- a ruthless world view to keep the cycle going -- were all in the mix.
Rating: NNNN To be constantly compared to your first project can be constricting. As The Weeknd inches towards the 10-year anniversary of his 2011 debut trilogy of mixtapes, even as he reaches the heights of pop stardom, it isn't uncommon for purists to hold each new release up against his first. On his fifth album, Scarborough native Abel Tesfaye couldn't be further from his debut - and that's okay.
The Weeknd's latest short film opens with the Toronto singer grinning maniacally onstage. He's just finished a performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and blood crawls down the side of his bandaged nose, threatening to drip onto his suit. As the audience cheers, Abel Tesfaye walks backstage, his artificial smile intact, until he reaches a hallway where it fades into a frigid stare.
The Lowdown: The Weeknd has spent the last decade of his career meticulously crafting an elusive — albeit beguiling — persona. His modest 2011 YouTube beginnings quickly transformed into a trio of acroamatic mixtapes: House of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes of Silence. Released in 2012 as a compilation album simply known as Trilogy, it laid the groundwork for the haunting and hedonistic brand of R&B The Weeknd was feverishly pioneering.
'After Hours' has finally dropped after a long year of being in the works. The Weeknd's fourth studio album is a mixture of the usual dark material we are accustomed to, whilst paying homage to the '80s, with synths being thrown at us left and right. With no features on the album, The Weeknd is truly able to deliver the most vulnerable and open project he has released to date, exploring themes of acceptance, emotional distraction, and the stages of a heartbreak.
W hen Abel Tesfaye first emerged nine years ago as the Weeknd he arrived with such an immaculately constructed sound and aesthetic that it swiftly became a creative prison. While his early blend of doleful R&B and emotionally despondent lyrics seemed fresh on 2011's trio of influential, Drake-approved mixtapes - House of Balloons, Thursday and Echoes of Silence - by his disappointing major label debut, Kiss Land, in 2013 the conceit had worn thin. A rethink was in order.