“After Hours” is The Weeknd’s fourth studio album, released two years after 2018’s “My Dear Melancholy.”
Abel Tesfaye, better known as The Weeknd, has been producing R&B for years, but has recently transitioned more into the pop sphere. While R&B has always been the most obvious influence on his unique sound, songs like “Starboy,” off 2016’s album of the same name, have suggested a possible but complete melt into pop.
2015’s “Beauty Behind the Madness” solidified The Weeknd’s place in R&B, and as time passes and more music is released, listeners are left to wonder which way he’ll shift.
The most popular song off “After Hours” is “Blinding Lights,” an immediate hit. Surprisingly, it seems more inspired by 80’s synth pop than either modern electronica pop or R&B, two genres that The Weeknd is most involved in.
“Blinding Lights” has even made its way to TikTok, where users have created a dance sequence that has gone viral. It’s a song that reminisces on the pop of the past while still staying true to the themes that The Weeknd’s modern music focuses on most heavily.
Themes in The Weeknd’s music have stayed consistent with R&B throughout his career, “After Hours” a confident confirmation of what his music represents and relates to listeners.
Unrequited love, drugs, sex, violence and fame are all topics that The Weeknd tackles in this album. All songs feel melancholy, a meditation on life through a lens opposite of rose-colored.
He does it slowly though, with melodies and a voice that seems careless. Nothing matters if you don’t care enough, says The Weeknd.
Songs like “Scared to Live” and “Hardest to Love” focus on unrequited love and the pain of a breakup, perhaps referring to Abel and Bella Hadid’s on and off relationship that seemed to come to a final end this past year.
Pain as a theme in The Weeknd’s music has always been obvious, and much of his music has been thinking of a way out of the pain, through drugs, sex, money or fame.
“Heartless,” one of the most popular songs off “After Hours” describes what listeners can assume is a song about The Weeknd’s self-perception and how his past may stop him from experiencing love in the future.
“Escape From LA” talks about materialism’s place in a relationship as The Weeknd details the relationship between someone who wants to be in it and someone who doesn’t, but the inability of both to give up. In this song, it seems like LA as a place is the only suitable backdrop for such a tumultuous situation.
Happier, more upbeat songs, such as “In Your Eyes” and “Save Your Tears” that sound pop more than R&B are also present on “After Hours,” adding to the album’s allure as a whole.
Overall, “After Hours” is an album that is very much characteristic of The Weeknd’s sound, an emblematic confirmation of the blend of pop and R&B that makes The Weeknd’s unique music.