Photo courtesy of XO and Republic Records.
One thousand two hundred and twelve days.
That is how long fans of Toronto’s very own The Weeknd had to wait for a full-length album. It has been nearly four years since Able Tesfaye introduced us to Starboy. During that four-year span, the Weeknd would pop in and out of the music scene, blessing fans with a few features here and there as well as releasing a sultry yet sinister sounding EP called “My Dear Melancholy,” back in March 2018.
Still, XO fans wanted more.
In late August of last year, he posted to his Twitter a photo of himself with the caption “album mode in full effect.” How long was it until we were going to get that album? No one knew. It took almost 3 months before he even hinted at a possible upcoming album for 2020 as he released two singles, “Heartless” and “Blinding Lights” during Thanksgiving week.
In “Heartless,” he referenced something that was mentioned in the final song of “My Dear Melancholy,” in which he was “going back to his old ways.” For many that are unfamiliar with The Weeknd, his rise to stardom is riddled with broken relationships, drug and alcohol abuse and a life on the road. This is something that he shied away from in Starboy back in 2016. And while Starboy was highly successful, many fans expressed their discontent as they missed “the old Abel.”
He heard the fans. And man, oh man, did he deliver with his latest album “After Hours.”
He begins his fourth studio album with the dark but electric “Alone Again”, A song that has very few words, but it’s filled with things that fans of his have lived with during his near eight-year existence in the music scene. The high notes, the ad Libs that are reminiscent of Michael Jackson in the sounds that are so futuristic, yet it can be placed in the 80s and still fit in.
Many of these tracks, if not half of them, sound like they belong with the music that our parents grew up with and yet they are here for us to enjoy today as brand new music. Sounds like “Too Late”, “Hardest to Love,” “Blinding Lights” and “In Your Eyes” all sound like something that you would’ve heard in the most recent season of Stranger Things.
One of the album’s most anticipated songs was “Scared to Live,” which the Weeknd performed live on SNL when he was the musical guest for the March 7 shell. He made fans wait two weeks for it to be available on streaming platforms.
Music history lovers might’ve caught a similarity in “Scared to Live” and a song of legendary musician Sir Elton John. In “Your Song” by Elton John, the British musician said, ‘I hope you don’t mind’, while in Abel’s “Scared to Live”, he changes the lyrics a bit to say, ‘I hope you know that’. The way both verses are sung are eerily similar despite being 50 years apart from each other.
In an interview with Billboard, Sir Elton John later lauded over The Weeknd’s use of his 1970 hit and praised Abel for the musician that he is.
“I love him. I always have done and you can tell by the videos for the new album as well that it's kind of ... 'Blinding Lights' is such an 80's-type record and it hits the nail on the head so perfectly, blending it with Abel's sound," John said in the interview.
And Sir Elton is right about The Weeknd’s music videos. They are, to say the least, something. From licking a toad in “Heartless” to having a girl dance around with his decapitated head in “In Your Eyes”, the recent music videos to promote his latest album can be a bit shocking for new fans of his. However, they are classic Abel Tesfaye for those who have been with him from the beginning.
And fans that have been with him from the beginning certainly recognized some of his classic sounds and trademarks. For instance, many remember from his three EPs that created ‘Trilogy’ in 2012 (“House of Balloons”, “Thursday”, and “Echoes of Silence”), a majority of those songs were well over five minutes. In tho
se 30 songs from that trilogy compilation, he averaged five minutes and 20 seconds per song. While that wasn’t the case for ‘After Hours’, fans certainly were taken aback when they heard tracks like “Escape from LA.” and the title track as both of those songs were nearly six minutes long. Both tracks also included major trademarks such as instrumental breaks, high notes, and just an overall dark tone that still makes you feel good inside.
Abel continued to be the gift that keeps on giving to his fans by releasing three bonus tracks on Monday, March 30. The bonus tracks were teased during an Instagram live a few days after the album’s initial release. These three tracks continue to add to the album’s purity with the rhythmic baselines in “Nothing Compares” to the simplistic guitar melody in “The Final Lullaby”.
Many longtime fans of The Weeknd will argue which project of his is the best. While I have thoroughly enjoyed all of his projects, it was going to take a lot to beat ‘House of Balloons’. ‘Beauty Behind the Madness’ is a close second, but there is just something so innovative with ‘House of Balloons’ that it was shocking that a 20-year-old homeless kid from Toronto could create something so beautiful. Well, after careful consideration, there is no doubt in my mind that this album is by far, his best work from his almost eight-year career. The sounds, do beets, the lyrics and everything in between create what can only be called a grand masterpiece.
So, stay awake into the ‘After Hours’. You’ll love it.