Joshua Burrell, Features Editor
After hours inside due to COVID-19 quarantines, The Weeknd’s fourth studio album After Hours arrived at the perfect time. Since November 2019, After Hours has been on radars to release with singles like “Heartless”, “Blinding Lights”, and “After Hours” in late February. This is a pensive album that teeters between self-destruction and liberation but ultimately giving hope to personal growth, accepting the past and being honest through confusion.
Understand that this album invokes feelings of isolation through songs about regret and longing for relationships. The album’s singles host the Weeknd’s arrogant, pretty-boy lyrics coupled with his soft voice and instrumentals foreshadow his usual style. With songs like “Alone Again”, “Too Late”, “Scared to Live”, and “Escape from LA”, this heartbroken artist sets a tone to self-reflect on how relationships develop and change with a slow and clearly remorseful album.
“Snowchild” stands out among other songs with a fade-in that feels like wandering through time. The Weeknd sings about ultimately outgrowing a space without speaking of future prospects save for leaving. After the lyrics there’s a calm meandering, almost meditative melody that moves like a wading pool.
Waiting for the following moment, calm ends, and there’s a decision in “Escape to LA” to move forward and appreciate everything gained. Being honest by acknowledging growth in times of confusion grants confidence to the following moment and the ever evident next move beyond comfort.
As the world seemingly stands still, being inside for hours can give people time to think about how they’d like to move in future relationships. “Faith” is choosing the past and talking to shadows about choices that would have mattered if they’d been made. “But if I OD, I want you to OD right beside me // I want you to follow right behind me, I want you to hold me while I’m smiling // While I’m dying”
Through late choices there’s a glimmering hope that self-acceptance will prevail and spread a light that reflects love. “Heartless” swaps love for chaos when accepting the behavior that led to past mistakes. The toxic chorus in The Weeknd’s dreamlike falsetto makes falling prey to self-indulgent habits feel like a joy ride over Metro Boomin’s production.
It feels good to do bad until it doesn’t. At some point, the demons catch up and there’s nothing to rely on but the behavior that shaped the demons. The title track “After Hours” wrestles with those demons.
It takes half the album to acknowledge where he struggles with sacrificing his past lifestyle for a fulfilling relationship. Living a dream-like life — flippant sex, cars, money and physical joys — blur lines between self-destruction and freedom. The difference lies where freedom requires responsibility and keeping emotional intelligence in mind. “Never comin’ down, uh // I was running away from facin’ reality, uh // Wastin’ all of my time out living my fantasies // Spendin’ money to compensate … It was simply a blessing wakin’ beside you // I’ll never let you down again”
The song “After Hours” juxtaposes trying to enjoy the wrong choice with regretting the choice all together. It speaks to knowing what you need when you have everything you want. The full album sheds soft tears and says ,“move on and remember this feeling when you’re gone.” After Hours is one of deep contemplation on which sacrifices — be they people, habits, or resistance — are worth compromising for relationship needs.
The Weeknd expresses how making sound relationship decisions rests on understanding personal wants and needs and choosing direction accordingly. His lyrics miss the mark where some songs champion change while others revel in a lifestyle that leads to hurting his partners, thus himself. After Hours has a walking pace and every song feels like a deep breath.
After hours inside, there will be a lot of decisions to make and their results will be rooted in how you decide who will accompany you through your next move.