The Weeknd’s Triumph Return with “After Hours”

Duncan Loudon / Courtesy Photo

A song-by-song review of the Weeknd’s 2020 album release, and a deep dive into the meaning of each piece

The Weeknd put out his highly anticipated explicit album titled “After hours” after a 5-year period. Surpassing over a 221 million streams on media platforms such as Spotify, it made number one on iTunes its first week, becoming the most trending topic on Twitter with the #afterhours. 

This dark cinematic piece tells a story of the Weeknd’s journey through loss, heartbreak, and heavy substance abuse, with 80s vibes and smooth transitions.

Starting off the album is his song “Alone Again”. The Weeknd uses futuristic yet hopeless sounds to help introduce the pain he is suppressing, and the façade he has been putting on for the world. Unique sounds, including twinkles, compliment each word with emotion as he says, “I don’t know if I can be alone again… Take off my disguise. I’m living someone else’s life.” 

Listeners can hear his pain building up, as it smoothly transitions into his next song, “Too late”. This song starts with a more smooth intro, with soft vocals pleading for his loved one to come and save him from himself. It comes to the conclusion of knowing their love is dead by saying “It’s way too late to save our souls, baby.” The song ends with listeners questioning what is going to happen, as if he’s leading them on a roller coaster ride of his on and off relationship with a dance beat and blaring sounds backing it.

Suspense fully flies into “Hardest To Love”. It focuses more on the pain his lover may be masking while being in love with him, trying to save the relationship but also trying to let go. “I’ve been the hardest to love. It’s hard to let me go,” the Weeknd said. “I can feel it, I can feel it.” 

This track is more heavily influenced by an 80s flow than previous tracks. Knowingly aware that he is to blame for his relationship ending, he is in disbelief; questioning why his lover is allowing herself to feel this pain when she can just let go.

The album starts slowing down as “Scared to live” starts playing with a more prominent piano sound, slower beats, and soothing vocals. The Weeknd shows his regret for not giving space to allow his lover to decide what path she wanted to take. This pushed her further away and resulted in the end of their relationship. 

Through the song, he is pleading with his lover to not lose herself in him anymore and live with the three sentences starting the song. “When I saw the signs I should of let you go, but I kept you beside me,” the Weeknd said. “If I held you back, at least I held you close. Should’ve known you were lonely.”

Ending the album with the song “Until I bleed out” brings the end of the struggle he has faced by taking substances to avoid pain, when all he wants is to erase a loved one out of his mind. Throughout the album, listeners will understand that he has reflected on the many mistakes he’s made while finding his way back to Earth and grounding himself without anyone else. 

I believe that this album exceeded expectations, and overall I was impressed. For some, the 80s sound the Weeknd went for can bring back a feeling of nostalgia. For others, this could be a new side they are seeing of The Weeknd. The Weekend was able to try something new while keeping his own original flare, making it his own.

“After Hours” is a story of a man battling back and forth on escaping and starting over with the issues in his life. Playing as if he’s the “bad guy” to these issues. 

Being an artist as popular as the Weeknd, he has to put on a different type of face for the people and for the press. But in the “After Hours”, he is on his own facing all these issues in the dark. His battle with substance abuse and losing his loved one, followed by hypnotic instruments, helps listeners feel his pain in each song. 

Be prepared to be sucked in track-by-track, and enjoy this cinematic body of music.