If one thing has stayed consistent about The Weeknd and his growing repertoire of records, its that he has remained honest. Abel Tesfaye has always been true to himself within his lyrics, never posing as someone bigger than he is. There is evident growth as a person and musician through his records, but that does not make his changing style a lie. After Hours, Abel’s latest record holds true to that statement.

The Weeknd’s druggy, depressive brand was introduced to the mainstream in 2013, with the release of Kiss Land and Trilogy. I knew The Weeknd was going to be a giant among the alternative R&B genre when I first listened to Trilogy. His sound was unique, blending dark ominous instruments with a velvety, clearly trained voice, which was totally fresh compared to his peers at the time. His early albums were critically acclaimed not just because of the sound, but the meaning behind his lyrics. The self-loathing yet self-aware dark creature became an instant hit within the genre.

His newer records like Beauty Behind the Madness and Starboy do show themes of him coming to terms with the honest truth of his darkness, and even show themes of him indulging in the giant success he has created. The change can be seen in both the lyrics as well as a stylistic change to his sound. His music molded more closely to mainstream pop with the use of bright vibrant synths.

After Hours seems like the record where Abel has finally been able to mix his two worlds seamlessly and has created something mature and sophisticated as a result. waves of dream pop and 80’s synth-pop have collided with his structurally perfect R&B voice. The release of this album sculpts a narrative of a young, loathing boy becoming something that is finally truly bigger than himself.

After Hours Review

“Alone Again”, the intro track, features a manipulated vocal supported by cool sounding synth work. His distant voice in both “Alone Again” and “Too Late” feel nostalgic and new at the same time, and does a great job building the tension for the listener. “Hardest To Love” and “Scared To Live” exemplify Abel’s maturity as a human and as an artist. Never have we been able to hear The Weeknd’s voice so raw and passionate. This is something fans have been wanting for a long time.

Let’s talk about the 80’s influence! That saxophone solo in “In Your Eyes” is almost cheesy, but holds back just enough to work with his voice. The low, growling synth in “Faith” gives me “Stranger Things” vibes that are hard not to love. It is an interesting trajectory for Abel, who started his career with an unheard-of, modern sound. His physical appearance changes parallel to his music. Beauty Behind the Madness showcased Abel’s signature hairstyle, with his dreadlocks tied up to resemble a palm tree. Starboy‘s mainstream sound influenced his clean fade. With After Hours we now see an Abel clearly influenced by retro time period, with a messier afro look.

Coming from a place of sheer honesty, The Weeknd and his music shine. He is aware of the villain he has played in his music. We all face demons inside of us, and The Weeknd is one of the few out there talking about it and even feeding off of it. On his latest record, Abel is in no way saying he is now a picture-perfect man. He is not the substance-fueled dysfunctional man he used to be, but he is not settling down and becoming a family man anytime soon. It is such a fine line between the void filling music about sex, drugs and alcohol, and the mainstream synth-pop sound that sells out the biggest stages around the world. Listeners are hearing the closest thing to a balance between these worlds in After Hours.

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