The Weeknd released “After Hours” on March 20, following his last studio album, “Starboy,” by four years. courtesy XO and Republic Records

The Weeknd infuses storytelling in “After Hours”

The R&B artist’s new album mixes impressive vocals with upbeat and dream-like techno beats.

With the coronavirus forcing people into quarantine and isolation, the cards couldn’t have fallen more into place for The Weeknd. With the boredom that comes with staying in the house, The Weeknd decided to bless the world with 14 songs coming out to 56 minutes in his new album “After Hours.” This is The Weeknd’s new full-length album two years after his previous work, “My Dear Melancholy.”

I’ve always admired The Weeknd’s work. I consider myself to be an R&B fan, and The Weeknd has always been able to deliver unique vocals with songs that fit his sound while simultaneously not sounding mainstream. “My Dear Melancholy” was a bit of a let down especially following the release of his album “Starboy,” which is one of my favorite albums of all time. But I went into “After Hours” with open ears, excited to hear what The Weeknd would deliver this time around.

The Weeknd starting the album with the distant sound of “Alone Again” was an excellent choice. He has always been able to draw me in with his voice and that, combined with an almost abstract opener, had me primed and ready for the rest of the album.

Following “Alone Again” with “Too Late” makes the distant and dream-like sound into a whole journey. In “Too Late,” The Weeknd talks about the mistakes he’s made and how it’s too late to make up for it. However, I really couldn’t see myself listening to it outside the context of the album. “Too Late” just seems like a lesser reiteration of “Alone Again.”

“Hardest To Love”and “Faith” gave me the same feeling as some of the more upbeat tracks on The Weeknd’s earlier album, “Starboy.” I enjoyed listening to these songs — they almost feel like a break from the rest of the album. My favorite moment was in “Hardest To Love,” when at the beginning of the chorus, everything else drops out, leaving only The Weeknd’s voice.

I feel like The Weeknd has always had trouble making all the songs on an album concise in terms of storytelling. He has always had songs under a common theme, but lacked a story complete with transitions. But already into this album, I felt like I was getting a story and a common theme.

“Scared To Live” is a song that I enjoyed from beginning to end. The Weeknd’s voice is really fit for sustaining notes. However, the album started to lose momentum after this; “Snowchild” goes on for too long, and I got bored, especially following “Scared To Live.” I was especially let down by “Escape from LA.” I heard many good things about this song specifically, but it didn’t seem all that special to me. After those two tracks, I was beginning to lose faith in the album. But then “Heartless” came on. From the start, the beat drew me in. Then The Weeknd came in and started delivering his signature flow, and the bridge on this track is incredible. This song grabbed my attention back into the album. Going from the fast and intense delivery to the dream-like chorus similar to the beginning of the album made it one of my favorite tracks on the album.

“Blinding Lights” was another song that reminded me of “Starboy.” This song has a more techno feel, a sound that fits The Weeknd so well. His vocal performance adds so much imagery and color to this song. “Blinding Lights” reminds me of disco and roller skating with neon lights.

“Blinding Lights” is followed by another techno disco sound with “In Your Eyes.” These two songs are like a pair and tell a story. I imagine the blinding lights being the eyes that he describes in the song. The outro is one of the best outros complete with the breakdown and the repetition of the phrase “your eyes.” Even though the songs are connected, I could see myself listening to either outside of the context of the album.

Continuing the eyes theme, “Save Your Tears” extends this techno feel. This song also has the same vibe as the previous tracks with an addictive beat. These lyrics are almost the opposite of “Alone Again” and “Too Late.” Those two songs were songs seem like apologies, whereas “Save Your Tears” seems more like a goodbye song.

The last three tracks of the album “Repeat After Me,” “After Hours” and “Until I Bleed Out” are a good ending for an album. Especially since “Until I Bleed Out” has a similar sound to “Alone Again,” the album ended on a high note.

I have conflicted feelings towards this album. Although I love The Weeknd and his sound, I think that I was feeling too bored with this album. Some tracks are repetitive and the second half of the album is immensely better than the first half. It felt like The Weeknd was trying to give listeners “Starboy” but with more R&B tracks from his previous albums. I found myself losing interest in the album after the first track, but I was drawn back in following “Heartless” to the end. I like the sound he was going for with the last half and am excited to see what he will do for his next project.

Post Author: Nora Bethune