"AFTER HOURS" by The Weeknd

Social IssuesCulture

  • Author Elias Stergiou
  • Published March 17, 2022
  • Word count 2,243

Abel Tesfaye finally delivers on his long-running vision, leveraging a self-loathing villain into an irresistible cinematic narrative with his most satisfying collision of synth, new wave, ‘80s dream pop, and, most and foremost, R&B/Soul. “After Hours” explores promiscuity, over-indulgence, and self-loathing.

“After Hours” continues Abel's conflicting dichotomy and has him continue to live up to his pseudonym: “the weekend” with its promise of pleasure, romance, and nightclub antics, but also “the weakened” regarding the emotional toll his actions seem to have on him. The persona The Weeknd has created in his music dwells in a perpetual circle of love and loss so it should come as no surprise when we discover him… alone again.

The end of another romantic relationship has taken its toll on Abel and that heartbreak has him fleeing to Sin City, Las Vegas. (“in Vegas, I feel so at home” – Alone Again) It is where the king of the fall plans to divert his attention away from grief and venture back into his former self but from what we have seen in the past, being romantically unattached seems to do more harm than good for Abel. (“I don’t know if I can be alone again” – Alone Again) So, it is not long before his playboy personality comes alive again and has him over-indulging in detrimental behaviors. He is nearly overdosing and while in his near-death state, (“I took too much, I don’t wanna die” – Alone Again) the following tracks play out like a flashback, reciting the events that led him to Las Vegas in the first place.

“Too Late” serves as a bit of a prelude to how Abel ended up solo. (“I let you down, I led you on” – Too Late) He was filled with regret over some unfaithful actions he committed and it seems like this time it might be too late to mend what has been broken. He blamed some of it on his surroundings and living in Los Angeles (“I can’t trust where I live anymore” – Too Late) but by the next track, he admits that the blame for his romantic fallout rests on his shoulders. (“I’ve been the hardest to love, you tryna let me go” – Hardest To Love) He was no longer fully invested in the relationship and it would not be the first time Abel has felt like a woman has overstayed her welcome. (“This house is not a home to you” – Twenty Eight) He felt the relationship's end was already near but his lover was having a tough time letting him go and he selfishly held on to her knowing the right path forward, thinking he was guarding her by keeping her close. (“When I saw the signs, I shoulda let you go but I kept you beside me” – Scared To Live) Unfortunately, it only poisoned her view of the love she truly deserved as she was only staying out of fear of being alone. Abel, then, begins to show remorse by encouraging this woman to get out there and not be afraid of finding someone new. (“So don’t be scared to live again” – Scared To Live) The chapter closes with Abel feeling like the relationship was never going to work out anyway. (“We fell apart, right from the start” – Scared To Live)

“Snowchild” has Abel musing over his path to success, former struggles, and previous intentions of self-harm. (“If I didn’t make it then I’d probably make my wrist bleed” - Snowchild) Ultimately, this appears to be the turning point in his thinking; he reminds himself of how far he has come, everything he has accomplished, and finally shows some gratitude for this lost relationship. In 2011, Abel dreamed of heading to California to pursue his music (“order plane tickets, Cali is the mission” – The Morning) but by 2015, he was reminiscing over his hometown of Toronto (“I miss my city, man, it’s been a minute. M.I.A. a habit, Cali was the mission” – Tell Your Friends) and it is at this point on “After Hours” when he decides it is time to escape from LA. (“Cali was the mission but now a nigga leaving” – Snowchild) He reasons that The City Of Angels was deteriorating him and his lover's souls. His stardom and fortune came with plenty of attention and temptation from the opposite sex (“but this world is such a, such an evil place, man these hoes will always find a way” – Escape From LA) but after all these years, Abel is recognizing that this lifestyle has been damaging not only his health but the well-being of his emotional relationships and for once, he genuinely seems to not want to lose that. (“This place will be the end of me” – Escape From LA) However, it would not be a The Weeknd album without seeing his character's inclination towards corruption: Abel risks it all for a night with someone he does not even find significant. (“She pulled up to the studio, nobody’s watching” – Escape From LA) This must have been the provocative incident that, eventually, left him alone and the same incident that raises the question: Is LA really the cause of his hardships or is it just Abel himself?

Now in Las Vegas, the delicate ethos he held in “Snowchild” has shifted completely. (“Never need a bitch, I’m what a bitch need” – Heartless) Without his real lover, he is left with only fame and wealth, fast cars, hard drugs, and meaningless sex. (“and I’m back to my ways ‘cause I’m heartless” - Heartless) It is a lifestyle he has shown regret for in the past. (“it’s safe to say this ain’t ordinary life” – Ordinary Life) He continually states that he is trying to be a better man but every time he is alone and faced with temptation, he succumbs to instant sexual gratification but even now, it seems that his lover from earlier tracks refuses to give up on him; (“You never gave up on me” – Heartless) maybe they rekindle some form of communication but Abel begins losing faith perhaps in himself or over the idea of finding happiness and love. That lack of faith has him trying to numb his senses and fill the void that has left him heartless but when his drug-induced highs begin to fade, he is reminded of the heartache, (“when I’m coming down is the most I feel alone” – Faith) once again proving that he is continually replicating his past. (“I always want you when I’m coming down” – Coming Down) Every time Abel seems to be presented with a good path forward, he instead chooses Sin City. (“I choose Vegas if they offer Heaven’s gate” – Faith)

Eventually, we get, quite possibly, the album's most deeply personal line, (“I pray when I look inside the mirror and see someone I love” – Faith) meaning that maybe Abel cannot love someone correctly because he has not learned to fully value and respect himself. He is constantly abusing his body and his emotions when he acts irrationally; his weak response inhibition leaves him doing whatever pops into his head at the moment and then having to deal with the fallout later. It is this spiral that lands him in either a police car or an ambulance by the end of the track. (“I ended up in the back of a flashing car” - Faith) By showing the world his heartless playboy persona, he has been able to protect his inner emotions and because he has perpetually done this throughout his career, his feelings have been numbed to be emotionally indestructible. However, this time alone in Las Vegas continues to leave him pining for his past love. The Las Vegas nightlife has left him cold-empty and further blinded by the fame but at the same time, it has also offered him the clarity he needed, and now he is ready to take this woman back. (“No, I can’t sleep until I feel your touch” – Blinding Lights)

However, in “In Your Eyes”, he is finding out that she has been having a hot girl summer. (“I can tell what you’ve done, yeah, when I look at you in your eyes” – In Your Eyes) It seems like the cards have turned and now Abel is the one trying to make it work so that his love does not turn into a loss. He has tried finding love in others but has come to acknowledge that he just cannot get over this woman. Abel has no problem looking past her infidelities because he is just as guilty himself but every time he looks at her, it is a constant reminder of his frequent betrayals. (“I’m ashamed of what I’ve done, when I look at you in your eyes” – In Your Eyes) It seems the two go their separate ways for some time but they cross paths at a party in “Save Your Tears”. (“I saw you dancing in a crowded room” – Save Your Tears) Abel still feels awful about what he initially put her through and had hoped that she had stayed in touch, although he realizes that she wants nothing to do with him anymore. (“but you walk past me like I wasn’t there” – Save Your Tears) He accepts he is too late now, he admits that she does deserve better (“I realize that I’m much too late and you deserve someone better” – Save Your Tears) or so he wants us to think that. In his mind, he is trying to convince himself that he does not care about his lover moving on but in the next track, jealousy and paranoia are getting the best of him. He is having a challenging time coping with the idea that she is moving on. That is why he resorts to an effort to brainwash his lover and persuade her that she is in love with him and only him. (“You don’t love him, you don’t love him, you don’t love him if you’re thinking of me” / “but ain’t right if you fuck him out of spite” – Repeat After Me) He is desperate for her love and in denial of the relationship's end. (“my heart belongs to you, I’ll risk it all for you” – After Hours) Whether it is heartbreak or withdrawal, Abel is unable to rest and finds that his attempts to be a better man have been futile and by the sounds of it, he is contemplating suicide; an eternal sleep where he can continue to dream of only her, (“Put myself to sleep, just so I can get closer to you inside my dreams” – After Hours) where he can beg for her presence and forgiveness. (“this time I won’t break your heart, your heart” – After Hours)

This is what I consider to be the tragedy of Abel Tesfaye. Throughout his discography, he has hurt women and has been on the receiving end of that hurt as well but has always found a way forward. “After Hours” initially seems to be a repetition of his old ways but this time they are not enough to mend this heartbreak because as it appears, he is not as emotionally indestructible as he had thought. He truly found something special but realized it far too late. By the album's conclusion, Abel is paralyzed by the weight of his own emotions. (“I’m so paralyzed, I’m so paralyzed” – Until I Bleed Out) He is tired of hurting the one he loves; he had hoped he would grow stronger and more integral with time but he has only sunk deeper into the black hole of hedonism, fame, and fortune. He, at some time, needs to be a better man and break this unending cycle. He is finally looking inside the mirror or rather himself, hoping that he can still see some semblance of good reflecting at him, something he can say he loves about himself. Abel has always tapped into the darkest and most shaded part of his mind for our entertainment but it is finally bleeding him dry and he is trying to convince himself that he does not need drugs or love to be genuinely happy. (“I keep telling myself I don’t need it anymore” / “just want it out of my life, out” – Until I Bleed Out) So, it should come as no surprise when we discover him… alone again.

My first interaction with The Weeknd was through “After Hours”, my favorite album ever, since then. I cannot remember if it just appeared on my Spotify homepage or I looked it up. All I know is that this album came into my life when I was going through a tough time in my life and I needed something to push me forward; something to hold on to. While Abel was facing his endless circle of self-torturing and overthinking, I was doing the same thing, as well. I cannot imagine a better way of bonding with someone other than that. The thing I do not fully understand is how it kept me going. The theme of the album is not positivity, it is not self-improving; it is not even close to that. So, the question arises: How can an album about self-loathing give me courage? I guess I will never comprehend it because...

this is the beautiful blur of the “After Hours”

Hi! I am Elias Stergiou, an 18-years-old music lover. I do writing as a hobby, but I love it very much. Please consider giving my articles a chance!

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