His previous records have always sparked a lot of criticism regarding the lack of cohesion in the sound. Living three or four different albums within oneself. Abel recently addressed that issues on one of the few interviews that he has given this era justifying this problem that it just merely how his head works. But let me tell you that on After Hours we can found his most cohesive record to date.
The aesthetic of this era inspired on classic American’s action movies mixed up a bit with the Joker fits perfectly into the crazy and frantic eighties ride that his record offers. An album in which he continues to explore a new side of his persona. This new man supposedly came to disgrace that has finally learnt from his mistakes and sins and is trying to “overcompensate” all the damage that he has created to his ex-girlfriends, family and friends.
Although he has admitted that he continues to take drugs “to let himself go”, especially during “the creative process”. He mentioned that he will be capable of staying sober during his future tour. So let’s see how much of this new persona can be translated into reality.
Lyrically there’s some of that new persona imprinted into the songs, but sadly The Weeknd has never been known because of his ability as a songwriter or his capacity to enunciate; I mean it takes a while to figure out what is he singing without the lyrics in front of your face.
In “Snowchild” one of the tracks with a least pompous production we can find a statement (“going on tour is my vacation // every month, new accusations // my only phobia is failure”) against his accusation of biphobia as he sang on a previously released song title “Lost In The Fire” the next lines “You said you might be into girls // Said you going through a phase // Keeping your heart safe // Well, baby, you can bring a friend // She can ride on top your face // While I fuck you straight
The rest of the record lyrically still navigates between sex, jealousy and a continuous feeling of loneliness and the beginning of a self-reflection stage on his life but nothing too deep and severe for the listener. Although on “Hardest to Love” addressed his inability to love and create a serious relationship “I no longer feel anything / the house I bought is not a home / together we are still so alone”.
In terms of production, The Weeknd opened himself to new genres. On the previously mentioned “Hardest to Love” he experimented with drum & bass, creating a sweet and sophisticated atmosphere that is not entirely associated with that genre in particular. He keeps finding inspired on another UK originated style which is dubstep mixing it up with trap on “Too Late” in which he sings about forgiveness“It’s way too late to save our souls, baby /It’s way too late, we’re on our own / I made mistakes, I did you wrong, baby”.
He also made an extraordinary attempt to European melodramatic eighties anthems on the sad but danceable “Save Your Tears” and used organic instruments like a sax on the Max Martin’s disco fantasy produced “In Your Eyes”. Also, we cannot forget the sample of Elton John’s “Your Song”, and the homage to George Michael’s best ballads on one of my favourites tracks on After Hours, “Scared To Live”
In terms of cohesion, After Hours is quite cohesive if we compared to his previous work because in this case we only have to differents record into one. There’s a clear separation not only in terms of sound, while the first one is more contemporary the second one is pure eighties at its peak. But also in terms of energy, there’s a clear difference after the frenzied eruption of “Heartless” until the end of the record which is far superior to the first half.
After Hours feels in fact like a goodbye to the old Abel. He has expressed his desire to abandon his bad habits and behaviours now that the has entered his thirties. This record precisely benefits for that bit of introspection and mild lyrical moderation on his preoccupations. At the same time, the stellar and overwhelming production is the definite appeal of the record as it’s Abel vocal ability. An album that is, in essence, a mighty sorrow battle of personas in which his mature side seems to be winning the game this time.
“Take off my disguise /I’m living someone else’s life / Suppressing who I was inside.”