In the opening lyrics of The Weeknd’s most recent release After Hours, the Toronto native confesses to the thousands of eager listeners with the words, “take off my disguise I’m living someone else’s life.” While many of his fans are aware of his moody and apparent discomfort with fame and fortune as it intersects with his saturated love life, he demonstrates no clear deviation from such a struggle with this much anticipated album.
Earlier this year, the existentially caught artist was featured as himself in A24 Film Uncut Gems directed by the Safdie brothers, foreshadowing the release of new music. The plot of the film exhibits clear parallels with the album, both showing the decomposition of intimate relationships with people who were once so cherishable. It was also the composer of the film Daniel Lopatin who pushed for the album’s manifestation, producing four to five tracks from this co-production pairing. The musical style of Lopatin bleeds through the broodish, yearnful words of The Weeknd, producing a spacey, 80s synth gorged collection of songs. This album radiates electronic, synthy sad boy spirits, or lack and loss of intimate feelings thereof.
With the spectacular track “Alone Again,” The Weeknd reminds his fans of his peculiar production taste of intense bass and repetitious lines of heartbreak. Heavy drug use and even overdosing on substances are compared to both feelings of addiction to substances and desire for love in a way. The artist uses his previous relationship to provide this mechanism of comparison.
He follows a similar sullen narrative with his fifth song on the album “Snowchild,” by saying: “I used to pray when I was sixteen / If I didn’t make it, then I’d probably make my wrist bleed / Not to mislead, turn my nightmares into big dreams.” This line traces the artist’s background towards an idealized vision of success he had when he tried to start his music career before moving to the U.S., putting so much emphasis on making it in the music industry that he would rather cease to exist if not in this desired state of living.
The Weeknd, referred to by many of his most “avid listeners” as Abel, pours out the remnants of his blatantly battered heart in the majority of the fourteen track album. In “Snowchild” the artists writes: “She like my futuristic sounds in the new spaceship / Futuristic sex, give her Philip K. dick / She never need a man, she what a man need / So I keep on falling for her daily.” These lines show the lust he has for this woman he repeatedly dreams about, yet the lines simultaneously provide a strong foundation for adjacent paradoxical lines in the seventh track titled “Heartless,” saying: “Never need a bitch, I’m what a bitch need / Tryna find the one that can fix me / I’ve been dodgin’ death in the six-speed / Amphetamine got my tummy feelin’ sickly.” These contradictory lines present a dramatic shift in the way the artist perceives romance and the search for a partner all the same, this of course supplemented by the heavy and concerning drug use Abel depends on in order to trudge on in the repetitive nature of such cyclically toxic relations.
My personal favorites off of the album are: “Alone Again,” “Snowchild,” “Heartless,” “Save Your Tears,”“Repeat After Me (Interlude)” and “Until I Bleed Out.”
Overall, The Weeknd’s fourth studio album shows clear excellence in its production, lyricisms and story-telling qualities, placing it amongst his greatest work to date. Despite his despairing, unlucky patterns of misplaced love, he channels these feelings into his craft, producing spectacular work for global streamers and fans. The Weeknd’s work is showing definite progression and advancement in how he approaches this industry, providing the unequivocal groundwork for exceptional and high-grade quality content for music listeners everywhere.
Tyler Brown is a sophomore in the college of Arts and Science. He can be reached at [email protected]