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The Weekend
After Hours

The Weeknd XO, Inc. / Republic Records

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$48.00 SGD
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$48.00 SGD


When Abel Tesfaye first emerged nine years ago as the Weeknd he arrived with such an immaculately constructed sound and aesthetic that it swiftly became a creative prison. While his early blend of doleful R&B and emotionally despondent lyrics seemed fresh on 2011’s trio of influential, Drake-approved mixtapes – House of Balloons, Thursday and Echoes of Silence – by his disappointing major label debut, Kiss Land, in 2013 the conceit had worn thin.

A rethink was in order. As with his 2015 commercial breakthrough, Beauty Behind the Madness – home to the lithe disco funk of Can’t Feel My Face, which offered a PG edit of the Weeknd’s lyrical tropes of unfulfilling sex and drug use – and its bloated follow-up Starboy, the new album After Hours attempts to blend the drip-fed, drug-addled mopes of yore with luminescent, Max Martin-assisted bangers your mum can sing along to.

The agile After Hours might be his best attempt yet at fusing the two. Rather than sticking out like a sore thumb, the glorious 80s synthpop explosion of lead single Blinding Lights – No 1 in the UK for five of the last six weeks – blends in nicely with the album’s nostalgic palette of shape-shifting synth workouts, tactile minimalism and (on Too Late and Hardest to Love), splashes of drum’n’bass and UK garage. Just as those early mixtapes were buffeted by blog-friendly samples from the likes of Beach House and Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Phil Collins-esque ballad Scared to Live soars over a hilarious sample from Elton John’s Your Song, while new single In Your Eyes struts around a refreshingly uncool sax solo.

Lyrically, he ventures into new territory too, albeit briefly. The album opens with a suite of songs that show a scintilla of remorse for failed relationships that never seemed to make it beyond the bedroom. On the widescreen expanse of the excellent Faith he croons, “thought I’d be a better man but I lied to me and you” in his best choirboy voice. The featherlight, Limahl-esque Save Your Tears, meanwhile, offers up a hint of self-reflection. Even when he’s apologising or looking for reconciliation, however, it’s always to serve him and him alone. “Where are you now when I need you most?” he mopes on the title track, while on slow-burn opener Alone Again you can imagine him padding mournfully around his apartment as he sighs: “I don’t know if I can be alone again.” Unfortunately, this being a Weeknd album, there are still moments of misogyny, specifically on the bloated Heartless, which seems like self-parody, and the risible, nearly six-minute epic Escape from LA, in which he details having very boring-sounding sex in a studio with women who have all had the “same work done on their face”. Not that he has a problem with that. “I don’t criticise,” he adds, leaving a pause to give himself a pat on the back. - The Guardian

Label: The Weeknd XO, Inc. ‎– B003199101, Republic Records ‎– B003199101

Format: 2 × Vinyl, LP, Album

Country: US

Released: 25 Sep 2020

Genre: Electronic, Hip Hop, Funk / Soul, Pop

Style: Contemporary R&B, Pop Rap, Synth-pop, Disco