R&B & Hip-Hop
XO, Republic Records
(Image credit: Urban Islandz)
The first song we ever heard from Canadian artist The Weeknd, whose real name is Abel Tesfaye, was High for This from his debut, House of Balloons (2011) mixtape. Nine years later, The Weeknd dropped his fourth album After Hours on the 20th of March, for eager fans around the globe. There are 14 tracks on the album, and the cover features The Weeknd eerily smiling with blood running down his nose and on to his blood-stained teeth.
But what does his latest album have to do with supermodel, Bella Hadid? Let us fill you in. The Weeknd and Hadid were dating in 2015, and they were on-and-off until late 2019, when The Weeknd released the first two singles called Heartless and Blinding Lights. Both singles referenced his relationship with Hadid in the lyrics. In February 2020, The Weeknd released his third single, After Hours, before dropping the full album.
Here’s what we think…
The first track on the album starts off calm and soothing, building as it reaches the chorus, when the beat changes into a more upbeat pace. The Weeknd’s wide vocal range is complemented with autotune, but it almost makes him sound like a robot. The lyrics reference him being alone again in Vegas, throwing money in the air.
The signature high vocals of The Weeknd shine through, and the chorus background almost sounds like a sped-up heartbeat. The lyrics point at how The Weeknd feels that it’s too late for him and his “babe” to save their souls, and that there is no going back on his mistakes and wrong-doing towards his lost lover.
Sources say that we’re done / how would they know?
This line might be a reference to the high number of articles that have been written about The Weeknd and Hadid since their breakup. Since The Weeknd has now released a full album discussing the relationship, we tap into information from the source.
Hardest to Love
A blend of what sounds like echoing bells, an upbeat tempo, and a lower range of The Weeknd’s vocals, with lyrics exploring how he feels about making it difficult for someone to love him. The beat purposefully glitches at certain parts that momentarily halt the continuity of the track, yet they almost sound like unintentional technical lags.
I don’t feel it anymore (Yeah) / The house I bought is not a home
There was speculation that Hadid moved into The Weeknd’s $18 million Hidden Hills mansion after sharing photos on her Instagram. He had also allegedly asked her to move in with him in his apartment in Tribeca.
Scared to Live
The second pre-chorus provides sufficient build-up for what comes next, and sends the chorus into full throttle as The Weeknd talks to an ex-lover and tells her not to feel scared to live again. The post-chorus samples the Elton John classic, Your Song (1970).
I hope you know that, I hope you know that / We fell apart, right from the start
The line also might be referencing how The Weeknd and Hadid had initially broke up, and he started dating actress, Selena Gomez, but went back to Hadid after the termination of his relationship with Gomez.
You always miss the chance to fall for someone else (Uh, uh) / ‘Cause your heart only knows me
Hadid was briefly linked to the rapper, Drake, on his Scorpion album, and following their split, she reportedly went back to dating The Weeknd again.
The rhythm of the song resembles one of The Weeknd’s earliest songs, Often (2014). The descending notes in the background sound a little sinister, and the manipulation on The Weeknd’s voice enhances the robotic element, but otherwise, the song features his clean vocals minus any autotune.
We was at Coachella going brazy / Stack a couple M’s like I was Shady / Now I’m in Tribeca like I’m Jay-Z
Right before that line, you can hear a faint giggle that is speculated to be Hadid’s. The Weeknd and Hadid were allegedly spotted kissing at Coachella, and they lived together in his Tribeca home.
We find this to be the catchiest song on the entire album. The track keeps up a danceable tempo that has you moving along to the beat every time The Weeknd says “heartless” and then falls back into a dreamy bridge that is almost psychedelic. In the lyrics, The Weeknd is not just claiming that he no longer has a heart, or that he’s “back to his ways”, but rather it’s an image that he has to maintain.
This track signals the shift into a more 80s vibe until the end of the album. The retro sound of the drum in the intro keeps a slow tempo that switches into a more modern beat during the second verse. The Weeknd sings about losing his faith and doing too many drugs, and near the outro, his voice is manipulated to sound deeper and more sinister, signalling the drugs wearing out and his return to reality.
The same 80s vibe still goes strong with this one, and The Weeknd’s voice echoes in the background of the beat’s speedy pace. The lyrics tell a story about The Weeknd’s visit to “Sin City”, AKA Las Vegas, late at night.
Save Your Tears
Of all the album’s sad love songs, this one sounds the most like a breakup anthem. The retro beat follows The Weeknd’s clean vocals, which switch to the voice of a robot near the outro. This might be signalling how The Weeknd has turned cold after being rejected by his ex-lover.
I saw you dancing in a crowded room / You look so happy when I’m not with you
But then you saw me, caught you by surprise / A single teardrop falling from your eye
Hadid had allegedly left a club minutes after The Weeknd had arrived in August 2019, and even though she was smiling when she was going into the club, she appeared distraught leaving.
The title track starts with The Weeknd’s echoing breathy vocals, with the beat slowly picking up speed until it hits the second verse. When the beat kicks in, it introduces head-bobbing rhythmic synths that go along The Weeknd’s soft whispering; matching the sombre lyrics that overflow with remorse over the loss of a lover.
You can stream and download After Hours here.