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The Weeknd – After Hours

  • Release date: 20 March 2020
  • Label: XO,republic records

“Let the music heal us all during these dark times,” The Weeknd said in a press release he issued the afternoon before the release of his most recent album. His characteristic hasn’t always been such an issue for the community. He has always been one of pop’s best emotional distancers, influencing the Top 40 with his dark vision while portraying the disillusioned R&B lothario. His hits include the cocaine-malaised hit “I Can’t Feel My Face” and the no-pain-no-gain ballad “Earned It,” as well as the tombstone sad-boy swagger of his seminal 2011 goth ‘n’ B opus House of Balloons.

The mood on Weeknd records tends to be a mix of sadistic, masochistic, solipsistic, passive-aggressive, and, of course, very, very sexy. This time, on an album designed to be an epic post-breakup self-autopsy — call it The Ballad of Bella Hadid — the vibe is all those things, plus a sense of genuinely felt romantic desolation. “I don’t know if I can be alone again/I don’t know if I can sleep alone again,” he sings on the album-opening “Alone Again,” over a mordantly snaking beat and grim synth whirr. The theme continues apace from there: On “Too Late,” he’s the scorched-earth guilty party lamenting a relationship ruined by his bad-boy self-indulgence, the glowering, glistening track suggesting a gilded prison.

There is definitely a fair amount of pity-partying in After Hours. Beyond the typical too-beautiful-for-the-world pouting, there’s a fragility as well. On “Faith,” one of the few songs produced by Metro Boomin’, he sings, “I thought I’d be a better man, but I lied to you and me.” He references “Purple Rain” and “Losing My Religion,” floating above cold-storage synths in a sublime display of his signature feathery falsetto athleticism. The album is filled with that vocal elegance, which serves as a constant reminder that Tesfaye is unquestionably one of the most talented vocalists of his generation and that he can bring happiness and love to the despondent cokeover just like Al Green did.

It’s a mix of ambition, generosity, and superstar boo-hoo, a brag that’s also a whine that’s also a hug, but sung with such elegiac grandeur that it ends up being poignant. Such moments sum up the paradoxical allure of the Weeknd’s music, and After Hours is one of the smoothest cocoons he’s spun.

The Weeknd’s After Hours Tracklist

1. Alone Again
2. Too Late
3. Hardest To Love
4. Scared To Live
5. Snowchild
6. Escape From L.A.
7. Heartless
8. Faith
9. Blinding Lights
10. In Your Eyes
11. Save Your Tears
12. Repeat After Me (Interlude)
13. After Hours
14. Until I Bleed Out