After Hours (Deluxe)
"You can find love, fear, friends, enemies, violence, dancing, sex, demons, angels, loneliness, and togetherness all in the After Hours of the night.” —The Weeknd
Ever since The Weeknd emerged in 2011 with the mysterious and mesmerizing House of Balloons, the Toronto native has kept us on our toes: There was a trio of druggy, lo-fi R&B mixtapes, the Top 40 cake-topper “Can’t Feel My Face,” and the glossy, Daft Punk-assisted rebirth that came with 2016’s Starboy. On After Hours, his fourth studio album, the singer returns to early-era Abel Tesfaye—the fragile falsetto, the smoky atmospheres, the whispered confessions. But here, they’re bolstered by some seriously brilliant beatmaking: muted, shuffling drum ’n’ bass (“Hardest to Love”), whistling sirens and staccato trap textures (“Escape From LA"), and flickers of French touch, warped dubstep, and Chicago drill that have been stretched and bent into abstractions. It’s as if Tesfaye spent the past four years scouring underground warehouse parties for rhythms that could make his low-lit R&B balladry feel hedonistic, thrilling, and alive (and the above statement he sent Apple Music about the album seems to confirm that). When the album does lift into moments of brightness, they’re downright radiant: “Scared to Live” is sweeping and sentimental, fit for the final scene in a romantic comedy, and “Blinding Lights”—a Max Martin-produced megahit boosted by a Mercedes-Benz commercial—is about as glitzy, glamorous, and gloriously ’80s as it gets.