The Weeknd Details a Lusty, Drug-Filled Breakup in “After Hours”

Camille Orquera/Staff Writer

The Weeknd pens his drug-fueled heartbreak from supermodel Bella Hadid in his fourth studio album, which was released Mar. 20. 

The Weeknd, aka Abel Tesfaye, released “After Hours” nearly four years after his pop-heavy 2016 album “Starboy” and two years after his 2018 EP “My Dear Melancholy.”

Tesfaye’s sound has evolved over nearly a decade since his popular 2011 mixtape “House of Balloons” and his ill-received 2013 studio debut “Kiss Land.” 

The 14-track album “After Hours” is Tesfaye’s most cohesive piece in melding the experimental R&B of his past and the cinematic 1980s synth pop he has more recently started to play with. The album tells the loose story of debauched and beaten Tesfaye who is surprisingly remorseful but ultimately a flawed man. Many of the songs are clear apologies to his supermodel ex Bella Hadid- the pair split in late 2019.  

The Weeknd’s heavy-hitting roster of producers includes longtime collaborators Max Martin, Metro Boomin, Illangelo and Daheala. Tesfaye also recruited some of the industry’s newest hitmakers including Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, Ricky Reed, Oscar Holter, Frank Dukes and most notably the man behind the score to 2019’s stress-inducing thriller film “Uncut Gems,” Oneohtrix Point Never. 

Like most of his music, Tesfaye sings of his drug use and sexual exploits throughout the album. But most notable is his remorse for hurting his ex lover and the lack of connection that he may or may not have caused. 

The album starts off a little quieter with tracks “Alone Again” and “Too Late.” Rather than recount his doomed relationship, he begins at the end of it. The songs have some certainly dark bass and keyboard arrangements as he says how he did her wrong. 

One of the defining parts of the album is its use of 1980s synth arrangements that, while heavily inspired, bring a fresh compliment to Tesfaye’s usual sound. 

It is nearly halfway through the album when we reach some of Tesfaye’s best singles with “Heartless” and “Blinding Lights.” These are followed by two possible radio hits “In Your Eyes” and “Save Your Tears,” the former having George Michael’s “Careless Whisper”-esque sax solo paired with electronic percussion that is undeniably catchy. 

“After Hours” allows Tesfaye to experiment while also staying true to his known aesthetic. 

During his two year break from music, Tesfaye had a small role in the critically acclaimed thriller “Uncut Gems,” in which he plays a version of his 2012 self that still performed at nightclubs and seduced women into a rendezvous in the bathroom. Tesfaye made a new connection while working on the film, Daniel Lopatin, aka Oneohtrix Point Never, who wrote the score for the film and produced/wrote three of the album’s songs. 

Lopatin’s style is apparent in the tracks “Repeat After Me (Interlude)” and “Until I Bleed Out” as either of the songs could’ve easily been placed in the film’s soundtrack. 

“After Hours” flaw is its unfortunately timed release in the midst of a pandemic, where listeners stuck in their homes may not connect with his angst. While not Tesfaye’s fault, it is hard to want to wallow in one’s relationship failures while everyone is quite literally confined in their homes.  

The album’s pulsating title track “After Hours” is the penultimate song where Tesfaye continues to apologize and long for his ex. The final song “Until I Bleed Out” leaves the album’s story at an unhappy ending where the singer remarks his inability to live without drugs or love.

“After Hours” is most certainly one of Tesfaye’s best because of its clear vision and honesty. While it feels like the closing of a chapter, this era of The Weeknd is just beginning.  

Rating: 8/10

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