Senior A&E Writer
A journey of reconciling with love and doubt blends with a blast from the past with ’80s beats. The future blending together is a new sound for Abel, aka The Weeknd’s newest album “After Hours.” His silky voice over the ’80s synth beats provides a pop style of upbeat sounds and grooves that keep listeners feet-tapping and head-bobbing. An electrifying album, “After Hours” could sonically fit in a variety of decades as it races to capture our attention from the eerie mix of “Alone Again” to the pop of “Heartless.” This truly is an album exhibiting the creative and influential genius of Abel.
“After Hours” is not a mashup of songs, but a concept album where Abel takes responsibility for his mistakes in past relationships while holding back his selfish toxic traits. This 14-track project is a heart-breaking, drug-filled journey of cathartic uneasiness where nostalgia meets accountability. His personal and heartfelt lyrics that grace each track diverge from his earliest works.
One of the best tracks, “Scared to Live,” gives the album the best introduction to Abel’s struggle as he recognizes the harm he has done to women in his life. He explains his problems of being a toxic partner to the women he was with, even when he saw issues popping up. He was clingy and desperate to always be in proximity to them. Abel sums it up poetically with: “And if I held you back, at least I held you close (Yeah),” emphasizing how he prevented her from moving on and doing better things but claiming he was always there for her even at the end.
“Snowchild” explores Abel’s troubling past of drugs and women while he was soaring to fame. He also addresses his challenging upbringing of having little money, finding places to live and staying warm in the freezing Toronto weather, as well as his fear of not being successful in his music career. When he does establish fame and becomes what he always wanted, reality hits him. He has the house, women, jewelry and drugs, but none of it was making him as happy as he thought. Legal troubles were always around the corner, and he admits he never felt comfortable at his own mansion as he explains, “Twenty mill’ mansion, never lived in it,” and his fear of failing in life still lingered.
“In Your Eyes” is one of the most vulnerable tracks as we see The Weeknd having to confront his lover head-on. The song shows the troubles Abel must experience knowing the women in his life are reluctant to tell the truth to his face. Abel sings, “In your eyes, you lie, but I don’t let it define you,” reiterating that he sees her displeasures but continues to ignore them. The best part of this track is the saxophone that blares halfway through for an eargasmic blast that left me stunned.
“After Hours” is beautiful from top to bottom as we get to flesh out not just the singer, but the man. It’s a wonderful album that tests out sounds and mixes which others will surely copy. It is a mix of pop, jazz and R&B which will provide for those with multiple tastes.