Weeks later and this album continues to underwhelm. On first listen, After Hours satisfied my desire for new Weeknd music. However, as my listens furthered, mediocrity poked its ugly little head. Despite enjoying most of his previous two releases, my interest in Abel Tesfaye’s music dipped over time. Currently it is lower than it has ever been. The primary reason is a general lack of dynamism both in his vocal performances and songwriting. Don’t get me wrong, though. There are plenty of jams from Starboy that I will play forever. Tracks like “True Colors,” “Sidewalks,” and the title track are some of pop’s best offerings to date. Yet in recent years the victory lap that is The Weeknd’s life causes his music to take a backseat. While his talent is indeed plentiful, his passion for innovation stylistically and sonically is not. Being on top never sounded so decent.
Sifting through After Hours is no burden conversely. Unless you’re an early follower of his music, Abel’s pop transformation segues naturally here. My disappointment mostly lies with the strength — or lack thereof — of his tunes. None of Weeknd’s albums are perfect. Moreover, he often fails to string together double-digit amounts of songs without a dull track or two (or five). His breakthrough triple-album debut Trilogy has a special reservation in my heart always. Nevertheless, nostalgia is not enough to lower my expectations for his contemporary releases. Speaking of nostalgia, Abel relies on this tool heavily across this thing, perhaps hoping to win over more moms. But if KidzBop makes a song about inhaling hills of cocaine okay to interpolate, then who needs cheap gimmicks? To me, and this is strictly my opinion, The Weeknd’s life is so good that he ran out of topics to sing about. It’s a shame.
Because following a near-four-year gap between albums, you’d think a cocaine cowboy such as he would have a few more party anthems up his sleeve. Alas, the tunes he musters here are serviceable but ultimately forgettable for the most part. Even though After Hours‘ production style dazzles for the entire 56-minute runtime, Abel himself brings nothing exciting or unique to the table. His vocal delivery stagnates after about four songs. Also, once again, the tunes of these hooks have minimal longevity at best. They tend to blend into one another in spite of being musically sturdy. When I concluded that an interlude was my favorite song of the bunch, I knew this album was not the slap. The more I listened, the less I wanted to keep listening. Abel fumbled this one. Simple and plain. He didn’t turn the ball over, for example.
Yet he did in fact fumble that bitch out of bounds. Furthermore, his obsession with winning back Bella Hadid (I assume he writes of her, but who knows) gets old fast. Considering his entire last project was about her, this continuation of regret does well in terms of exuding honest emotion, but in the end makes for rather redundant material. I’m perfectly content with focusing on one or two topics across an album. However, I’m less enthused when those topics are not presented in an individualistic fashion. Maybe that’s just me. From what I’ve gathered, though, I’m not the only one bored with this record. I repeat: After Hours is far from trash. “Snowchild” (though somewhat typical) works. “Blinding Lights” sparkles. “Heartless” bangs. All of this does not counteract the overall suppression of The Weeknd’s boundless talent nonetheless. If you’re under 30, odds are this won’t tide you over.
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