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The Weeknd ‘After Hours’ – Review

The Weeknd brings his usual dark, moody R&B style to his newest record, and it’s more consistent than nearly all of his previous efforts.

You could easily argue that The Weeknd is perhaps the biggest pop star of the last ten years.

He’s kept up a consistently stellar track record when it comes to big, chart-topping albums and singles, and has remained the soundtrack to many a social media trend over the years. Whether it was the moody drums in ‘The Hills’ back in 2015 or the glitzy synths in 2020’s ‘Blinding Lights’, The Weeknd has a knack for knowing what sticks, and ‘After Hours’ is arguably his best album to date.

Everything you’d expect is present here. Nearly every song revels in drama, self-loathing, nihilistic behaviours, and isolated loneliness, The Weeknd’s reverbed vocals echoing against whispery instrumentals that were designed for night time listening. Each track creates towering soundscapes that wouldn’t be out of place as the soundtrack to a new wave cyberpunk movie.

We’re treated to a strong introduction on the opening track ‘Alone Again’, which quickly falls into the remorseful ‘Too Late’, where we hear The Weeknd lament a relationship that’s no longer viable, admitting he ‘let down’ an unknown partner.

From there, we’re painted a picture of a man who’s reached the top of the pop pyramid with nowhere left to go. ‘Hardest To Love’ and ‘Snowchild’ demonstrate deep rooted self-hate, both reflecting on turbulent and unhealthy behaviours of the past. As a whole the album sounds like late night musings, replicating the anxious regrets one only gets at three in the morning. There’s a calculated sadness and emptiness that threads ‘After Hours’ together, as tracks like ‘Escape From LA’ show a yearning for something new.

That’s not to say it’s without its fair share of bangers. ‘Blinding Lights’ is one you’ve no doubt heard already – it’s a huge hit on TikTok – while ‘In Your Eyes’ and ‘Scared To Live’ are slightly cheesy eighties new wave hits. There is something for every occasion here and, most importantly, it’s a consistently good project, a goal that has eluded The Weeknd for at least the last ten years. ‘After Hours’ is a sincere and complete work, one that has a natural conclusion and a well-paced track list.

Perhaps one criticism that could be given is that nothing feels particularly brand new here. The Weeknd keeps things firmly in his wheelhouse, sticking faithfully to the gloomy, airy aesthetic he made his name on. There are a ton of throwback sounds that would fit nicely on the ‘Stranger Things’ credits, many drug references, and some heartbreak anthems to keep you tiding over during lockdown,, but it’s not an absolute reinvention.

‘After Hours’ is The Weeknd at his best in a decade, an embrace of all his previous styles that works remarkably well. Introspection exists in spades here, and this will no doubt be one for the late night lockdown thoughts that we’ve all probably got racing around our heads at the moment. It’s nothing too drastic, but it’s the peak of The Weeknd’s eighties inspired moody synth pop. Where he goes next is up for debate – but it’ll be tough to outdo this one.

out of 5

'After Hours' is a stellar performance from The Weeknd.

This record takes The Weeknd's previous efforts and packages their best moments into a consistent project. It's very much more of the same, but now it's better than ever.