CLASSIC REVIEW: The Weeknd, After Hours
Updated: Feb 18, 2022
Has anyone else noticed that nothing has been quite the same in the world since Uncut Gems came out? It’s as if by traveling back to the year 2012 and selectively editing it’s history, The Safdie Brothers have created a ripple in the time-space continuum. One such historical anachronism in the film is placing the film’s main character Howard Ratner (played flawlessly by Adam Sandler) in a Manhattan nightclub where a fictionalized version of The Weeknd (played by Abel Tasfaye himself) is doing a club appearance. After performing, he does exactly what you think 2012 Weeknd would do; he snorts cocaine and tries to hook up with a beautiful woman (Julia Fox) who is someone else’s side-chick. House of Balloons, his visionary debut mixtape, would have you believe that he always gets the girl and beats up her man if need be. Instead, he gets interrupted by Sandler and nearly gets his ass kicked by him as well. We at AntiArt believe that this change of events has created a butterfly effect that has made 2020 such a strange and confusing year. Luckily, it also helped The Weeknd make his best album yet.
The opener “Alone Again” is an accidental lockdown jam. Over a crackling, digital synth score, Abel describes his purpose for this project: “living someone else’s life.” More on this later…“Call me up and I’ll send for you/Take me down to your altitude” he sings over commanding synth bass hits. The song’s producer Illangelo, the primary beatmaker for 2011’s House of Balloons, awakens a version of The Weeknd with an independent creative spirit. On the heartbreaking ode to Toronto “Snowchild”, Abel gets personal with clever wordplay, “I used to pray when I was sixteen/If I didn’t make it then I’d probably make my wrists bleed…Walking in the snow before I even made my wrists freeze.” His production also provides the album’s title track with its cold, calculated, club atmosphere.
Elsewhere on the album, production duties are given to Weeknd staples like Max Martin, who channels Aphex Twin with IDM breakbeats over watery, digital synths to craft perfect pop on “Hardest to Love”. “I’ve been the hardest to love/You’re tryna let me go, yeah/And I can see it, I can see it” Abel sings on the chorus so good, you’d be lame NOT to sing along. St. Louis vet Metro Boomin has four production credits here, including a collaboration with Uncut Gems score producer Oneohtrix Point Never on the ending credits closer “Until I Bleed Out”. Boomin also produces the one-two punch combo that is “Heartless” and “Faith” which we like to call the Out of Pocket section of the album. “Heartless” might as well be a Future song; it’s toxic and womanizing, sure, but it sets the tone for the album’s theme masking insecurities with tough guy posturing. Meanwhile, “Faith”, essentially “Blinding Lights: The Prequel”, assaults the listener with ray gun synth shots while Abel angelically croons about taking a xan and still staying awake, a not-so-subtle dig at fellow Toronto native Drake.
Ok, ok enough about the damn production. Can we talk about how the Weeknd, vocally and lyrically, is at his creative peak? Everywhere you turn on this album you encounter an irresistible