From the opening twinkles of “Alone Again,” The Weeknd smacks us in the face with some wild combination of the “haunted strip club music” he became known for during the Trilogy era and the synth-heavy, coke bender-esque sounds of Starboy and My Dear Melancholy. This combination gives listeners some of The Weeknd’s best work since he first burst onto the scene.
Does it surpass his early work? In four words, kind of sort of. That era granted a tectonic shift to the musicsphere. We still get folks channeling Echoes of Silence and House of Balloons almost a decade after their first releases. Plus, the Trilogy era changed R&B into the combination of sad, love and lust we currently get (for better or worse, depending on how you prefer your sangin’). After Hours continues the evolution of this era of R&B and music in general.
However, it does build upon Trilogy Weeknd while, as with his previous era, he found yet another way to reinvent himself. That’s still while still staying true to what got him to where he is today. In a discussion with Drizzle Sez, we both agreed that the album doesn’t exactly lend itself to sexual excursions as previous tracks have.
To me, that works in its favor.
After Hours takes the emotions of Trilogy, adds in the social distancing The Weeknd gave listeners on Melancholy, and experiments with a wide variety of sounds. For example, “Hardest to Love” features breakbeat drums and late 90s pop synths while The Weeknd laments over a lost love–and how he’s the reason why it’s lost. The next track, “Scared to Love,” sounds like what’d happen if “Forever Young” was written about heartbreak and the fragility of life. Plus, the Elton John interpolation is a thing of beauty. I mean, anyone who can introduce folks to Elton John to the next generation is a winner in my book.
As mentioned, there is also a desire to further distance from the fame, though it’s a necessary evil as an artist, and his vices (sex, drugs, and so on). However, he still gives into them at times–like any person who wants to change.
I think that’s what this album accomplishes above all else: it further shows The Weeknd as a person, not just a drug-addled, sex-addicted genius or a synth-loving singer who struggles to feel his face. Some folks have compared this to Joker in how it attempts to humanize a polarizing figure. I wouldn’t exactly say that, but I get why people would say it. Plus, the album’s deep cuts trump the singles, though the radio hits aren’t slouches by any means.
Check out After Hours below on Spotify (or via the link above) and remember to support dope music in all its forms.