After Hours: Three Years Later and It's Still Outstanding
A long overdue review of After Hours by the patron of sexy sadness, The Weeknd
I fucking love The Weeknd's music. Let's just start there. I love it. He makes sad music for stunning strippers, and that's just such an incredible niche??? What else is a mortal to do when those blood thrumming beats and haunted words of plea and warning greet you . . . Did he not create this art in such a way as to softly, quietly allow stray tears to accent your highlighter under the blacklight as you lost a couple of layers- of clothes, fears, restraints- and drank cranberry vodkas? Please! Let me know if I'm wrong.
His 2020 album . . . elevated that vibe to a supernatural level. Now your sad stripper was going to strip, stop halfway and rip open your throat, and then finish off her set with your blood to shine in pretty rivers along the dancefloor.
After Hours crept onto the scene like Satan on a dark night after all your family died on the lands they'd been banished to after a dastardly tangle with a VVitch. It hovered behind you, a sensation like a bloody nerve no longer raw but still exposed, dark and knowing. It asked me if I'd like to live deliciously.
To The Weeknd's credit, he offered me far more than plain butter and old, voluminous dresses.
(Yes my vibe read for this album is influenced by only ever listening to the whole album at night and Halloween Horror Nights. Can't stop won't stop.)
March 20th is the three year anniversary of After Hours (Deluxe), born into this world as- in my opinion- the finest work The Weeknd's ever produced, and quite honestly one of the top five albums I've ever heard in my life. Especially for the time that it was coming into- literally at the beginning of the Pandemic, like an offering of solace for what would be an intensely sucky next couple of years.
Look let's not play a round of How Far Can This Prose Go?, plain and simple it's an album with no skips (maybe one song I skip on an impatient day, but it's just the one!), several replays, and perpetrator of my first time being absolutely flabbergasted by the Grammy's process. I'd never given a bird shit about that music awards show before, and suddenly I needed After Hours to win album of the year, and . . . . . . yeah.
Let's focus on the absolutely fantastic story arc being played out here. We start with "Alone Again" and it's like one of those movies that show you a glimpse of the middle and then- record scratch- "Yeah, that's me. So I bet you're wondering how I got here?" And then we transition to "Too Late" and basically start off low, but most certainly not slow. The powerful use of synth, dark lumbering beats in the first half of the album wonderfully captures that sense of pain and inability to let go of what's killing him inside. The end of the first half is nicely wrapped up with "Escape from L.A." which represents to me The Weeknd's last lucid moment before he gets sucked into . . . radical holistic healing.
Queue the banger that doesn't sleep, "Heartless." It's gotta be a problem that every time I so much as think that word I hear that beginning beat. I know those lyrics by heart. And it's just such a perfect jump off song for the second half because you just know in your bones that this man is about to completely ruin his life, and you are so excited to witness it, because "Heartless" makes you love mess and delusions! Then we get into "Faith" where he wishes that they could just be together, die together, crahs and burn happily together. And, God- the last minute with the rumbling bass and that synth surge makes my heart flutter. "Blinding Lights", of course the popular first single from the album, kickstarts the next phase of his reckless pursuit of respite from life and his nightmares turned into reality. I must have played that song at least every day for eight months. Beat only by Heartless which has played daily, for three years. But now we're getting darker with "In Your Eyes" and I am frothing at the mouth for this vibe, you understand? The music video is so cool!
"After Hours" feels almost like a . . . a plateau? Like the high is ending and he's coasting it, starting to remember that the one he wants most is gone, even while still trying to party. Interlude happens . . . and then "Until I Bleed" is that dastardly comedown that no one can escape. Sick, tired, hurting . . . it's time to reckon with truth, and from there we hit the bonus tracks that are exclusive to the Deluxe version. "Nothing Compares" grapples with what he did while high, "Missing You" is him once again being unable to escape his sad boy roots, and- well. "Final Lullaby" is maybe him actually putting the idea of their second chance to rest . . . or he's deluded himself again.
I just. No words. No words can truly describe perfection.
As stated previously there's no skips on this album, so I can't really do a list from "best to worst" because all of them were outstanding in there own ways. I do have a top five though. And we're just gonna list them real quick:
1. After Hours
A never ending banger, party's over and he's left cold and alone again and he knows it's his fault but- fuck- can he just see you again? Even if he has to sleep to do it? Why does his life only seem to work out when he's high out of his mind?
There ain't nothing this can't cure for me. I'm stuck in a flashback about trauma from a past job? Not anymore. My hands shaking from stress and anxiety about a murky future? Now my ass shaking in the car too, cancels it out. I'm contemplating driving down the turnpike and not stopping? Abel said "We Don't Give A FAAWWWK BOUT NOBODY!" And I heard that!!
3. Too Late
Ooooowwhhheeee Sad Boy Hours again . . . He's letting you dip your toes a little into his reality here. Now chronologically this is the third song on the album, and Heartless comes later on, so technically you're supposed to drown in dread and despair before you drown in whatever potion of drugs he takes for Heartless. So we're here, acknowledging that there's nothing left to save. We're too late to save you, or ourselves, and the only thing we can do is drift to the bottom and hope we don't see you move on.
4. In Your Eyes
"I don't regret cuz my heart can't take a loss" You don't even understand what that line means to me. To me it means, "I know I messed up, and I can't fix this, but if I allow myself to realize that- to know what I've done- it'll end me. I can't mess up again. I can't take that."
Kill me. Just kill me! Finish the job! I just . . . . I'm going to scream into the pitch black of my car. I have to go! This whole things between us has become a nightmare, and we both can pretend that it's fine but holy locos tacos it's fucking NOT.
5. Until I Bleed Out
Now we get to the agony, the final stage where he's desperate to let go of this pain and these horrible coping mechanisms. We've left behind the opulent adrenaline of "Heartless" and are now facing the consequences of our actions. Which are extensive! We're dehydrated, bleeding, confused, and we may or may not have committed crimes (that potentially include murder- but that could have been a hallucination because we also ended up beheaded in that same sequence!). We're going to Urgent Care and then to a trusted therapist's office. Or turning on our favorite radio station . . . .
Those are absolutely, unequivocally my top five, and I'm still mad as hell I couldn't put "Faith" up there! Who am I mad at besides myself?! I just- That just speaks to how amazing this album is. All great songs, but a hefty amount of bangers so undeniable it feels like pulling at a nerve to even feel like I'm denying one. I promise you I adore this album. The aesthetics, the storytelling, the use of synthwave in a few songs (and I've got quite a few articles to showcase a fervent love for synthwave, too), the performances given for this album . . .
Three years later, and now the Weeknd is selling out stadiums and arenas on the International Tour: After Hours Til Dawn. A combo of After Hours and another great (if, admittedly, not as bewitching) album, Dawn FM. I really do wish I could have gone to the After Hours tour that happened in 2021, but I had no desire to stick myself into an arena so soon after reopening, even if I knew I would have worn my mask all night no matter what.
So what are your thoughts on After Hours? What were your favorite songs from the album, and what do you hope to see replicated in future albums? Personally, I hope he brings back the "Unhinged Life Of The Party" vibe from Heartless for a couple new albums.
About the Creator
I write about Halloween, music, movies, and more! Boba tea and cheesecake are my fuel. Let's talk about our favorite haunts and movies on Twitter @ThrillandFear
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