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Album review: The Weeknd authentically portrays heartache over past heartbreak in ‘After Hours’

(Courtesy of Republic Records)

“After Hours”

The Weeknd

Republic Records

Released Friday

By Alexsandra Coltun Schneider

March 20, 2020 4:21 p.m.

Attempting to spark a broken romance with a dysfunctional heart is a complicated affair for The Weeknd.

The Canadian musician dropped his fourth studio album “After Hours” on Friday, following the release of his extended play record “My Dear Melancholy,” in 2018. The album, composed of 14 tracks, traverses the singer’s journey of heartbreak and acknowledging his own wrongdoings in a relationship that ultimately met its demise. Also known as Abel Tesfaye, The Weeknd expresses regret over his past mistakes with a former lover in “After Hours” and promises personal change while revealing his evolved, candid honesty.

“Alone Again” opens the album with a slow-paced, rippling wave of beats alongside distorted and echoing vocals. Halfway into the song, the once-calm beat speeds up and takes on a futuristic sound, similar to that of his previous album, “Starboy.” As The Weeknd sings “Take off my disguise, I’m living someone else’s life” and “I don’t know if I can be alone again,” he provokes an immediate feel of loneliness and reflection. The song sets the stage for an album covering The Weeknd’s feelings of despair upon the realization that he lost a beloved.

Still feeling distraught after losing a former partner, The Weeknd acknowledges his poor behavior in their relationship in “Too Late.” The song’s chopped-up electronic sound matches its acceptance of a relationship that is broken beyond repair. While he battles to accept his lover’s absence, he also continues to lust over the thought of winning them back. The track’s sensual sound compliments the singer’s rich vocals as he expresses his honesty of being unable to achieve redemption.

[Related: Album review: Niall Horan departs from typical acoustic ballads in emotional narrative record]

The first few songs of the album commonly discuss a torn relationship, but each track takes on a distinct interpretation of how the singer is coping. “Scared To Live” plays on a minimalistic and slow beat, which allows The Weeknd to showcase his vibrant vocals as he hits each delicate high note. Although The Weeknd seems to have damaged his former partner’s heart, he hopes they find peace and move on to love again as he sings, “Don’t be scared to live again.” The Weeknd delivers a sincere confession of wrongs inflicted upon a relationship through his remorseful lyrics.

As The Weeknd tells the story of a former lover, easter eggs from his past releases are scattered throughout his most recent LP. “Snowchild” features the lyrics “Cali was the mission,” which mirror those from the track “The Morning” from his 2012 “Trilogy” project. While he expresses in “The Morning” the desire to work hard to live a life of luxury, “Showchild” features a contrasting tone. Rather, the singer reveals he is ready to leave his success and material goods – such as diamonds and cars – behind.

While most songs on the album indicate how The Weeknd desires to get back with a former flame, others express his conflicting wish to be single. The emotional contrast allows the singer to play a spirited devil’s advocate with himself by proclaiming to need love but knowing he is subpar at maintaining a healthy relationship. The record’s seventh song, “Heartless,” illustrates this acceptance of being unable to fully devote oneself to a partner. It is packed with a range of pounding and rhythmic electronic beats and sounds that work together to create a multidimensional energized atmosphere.

[Related: Album review: BTS spans genres in introspective release but fails to maintain quality throughout]

The thread of losing oneself in addition to a romantic partner is continued on the album’s eighth track “Faith,” in which the singer opens up about his inability to love another person. The track plays with a beat that slows down and speeds up, introducing a playful twist to the woeful song. “Faith” provides a smooth transition into “Blinding Lights,” which brings an upbeat tune paired with the singer’s yearning for attention and love from a former partner. Yet again, a techno-disco sound plays as The Weeknd uses the musical genre to his advantage.

While songs on “After Hours” are audibly vibrant, they are also visually stimulating. The lyrics of “In Your Eyes” describe the singer seeing his lover in pain and feeling disdain for not acknowledging that they are hurting. The track features a mixture of instruments, such as an electric piano and a saxophone that introduces itself midway into the song. A sensual sound attached to the song provides a groovy and uplifting feel to the track’s sorrowful lyrics. The contracting sound and lyrics present a refreshingly interpretive take to the heavy emotional matter.

As the cohesive album covers the themes of love and faults, its songs do get repetitive with similar upbeat sounds and lyrics at times. Yet, despite covering similar regretful sentiments throughout “After Hours,” The Weeknd manages to express his raw and authentic emotions. He seeks to make amends with his past, but what The Weeknd’s romantic future holds is still to be determined.

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Alexsandra Coltun Schneider
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