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The Weeknd - After Hours (Album Review)

Tuesday, 24 March 2020 Written by Jacob Brookman

With ‘After Hours’, Abel Tesfaye’s fourth studio album as the Weeknd, the Canadian superstar has delivered a pleasingly cohesive 14-track record that occupies itself with familiar themes of narcotic consumption and sexual endeavour. It’s a fun ride, but one that might leave you with a bit of shame and regret in the morning light.

It opens strongly. Too Late and Hardest to Love are both enjoyable tracks that marry his stunning vocals with stirringly nebulous synth voices and innovative melody writing. It's work that has a rich and ethereal musical language; one which is utterly unmistakable as the Weeknd.

But as we continue into the epic Escape From LA, things get a little bit more lyrically sketchy. It would be nice to think that, at 30, Tesfaye might have grown out of calling women ‘hoes’, but apparently not.

This stupid shit marks him out as a bit of an R&B soft boi—seemingly professing enlightenment yet underscoring a rather insipid misogyny. Not cool.

Elsewhere, standout tracks include the chunky In Your Eyes and the global hit Blinding Lights, which is essentially a 1980s British new wave song with more plodding drums. Widescreen chords and swirling synths hang handsomely around Tesfaye’s typically dazzling vocal, documenting relationship turmoil.

That said, once again the lyrics don’t connect in the way they are meant to. They are either banal or cliches or both: “I said, ooh, I'm blinded by the lights / No, I can't sleep until I feel your touch / I said, ooh, I'm drowning in the night / Oh, when I'm like this, you're the one I trust.”

This is a good pop album, and Tesfaye is undoubtedly one of the best singers in pop, but there are some unanswered questions on 'After Hours'. Like his recent cameo in the film Uncut Gems, the Weeknd still seems to operate in a bit of a psychological sewer, one which his talent should allow him to break out of. The question is: does he actually want to develop his artistic practice in a meaningful way, or is the money too good to miss?

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