Photo courtesy The Weeknd

Pop-Star Weeknd is Here to Stay

The Weeknd’s fourth album, "After Hours," has arrived
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The Weeknd’s fourth album, “After Hours,” has arrived

The R&B villain, better known as The Weeknd, has returned with his fourth studio album, “After Hours.” In this album, The Weeknd revisits the same themes of drugs, lust and heartbreak found in previous releases, but this time, with a different approach. In the past, his music has come off generally unapologetic, but “After Hours” brings a mix of emotions on his lifestyle.

After nearly a decade of partying and coming onto the scene in 2011, The Weeknd reveals on track eight, “Faith,” that he’s spent the last year sober. Still battling the urge to return to the fast life, The Weeknd comes to terms with the choices he’s made in “After Hours” and the mental war he’s fighting to avoid making those same mistakes.

Coming into this project, The Weeknd set the tone by dropping two pop singles at the end of November, claiming the top position on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with his lead single, “Heartless.” His follow up, “Blinding Lights,” is currently peaking at number two on the Hot 100 chart in the wake of the album release. He followed up in the second half of February with the title track, “After Hours,” as an unofficial single. The song is slow to build, but is equal parts patience and pop, making it clear that the pop-star style is here to stay.

“I will always prefer his earlier stuff. It’s just a sound you couldn’t have found anywhere else at the time.”

Alexa Noperi, HSU film major

Alexa Noperi is a film major at Humboldt State University, and she hasn’t been happy with The Weeknd’s direction since he dropped “Starboy.”

“I will always prefer his earlier stuff,” Noperi said. “It’s just a sound you couldn’t have found anywhere else at the time.”

The Weeknd’s gradual transition to pop music has left some of his day-one fans behind in the darkness of his mixtapes. Made official by his 2016 album “Starboy,” the style shift can be attributed to the success of his biggest single, “Can’t Feel My Face,” along with other pop efforts on “Beauty Behind the Madness,” including “Earned It” and “Angel.”

When he released his first EP, “My Dear Melancholy,” in 2018, the day-one fans that were left behind were delighted by the return of a dark Weeknd. With his latest release, The Weeknd is likely to disappoint hardcore fans again, as he mostly leaves behind the dark, moody atmosphere of his earlier music to make room for the pop sound that generated so much success with “Starboy.”

After Hours” is a rollercoaster of indecisiveness. The Weeknd’s desires constantly clash with one another on his quest for true happiness.

The album begins with chilly instrumentals that build into their own pop section. The Weeknd flaunts his typical unremorseful attitude, claiming, “It’s too late to save our souls,” on the song “Too Late.”

“After Hours” is the most consistently solid project The Weeknd has dropped so far.

Track four, “Scared To Live,” marks the first shift in his approach. He begins to express remorse for his actions, as well as an authentic desire to leave the fast life behind on the stand-out track “Snowchild,” reinforced on the next song, “Escape From LA.”

Unfortunately, The Weeknd relapses, back to the fast life on his song, “Heartless.” This marks the beginning of the pop-star section that dominated the sound of “Starboy,” this time, with a heavy ’80s electro-dance influence.

After Hours” then enters its final section, returning to the slower, chilly instrumentals that opened the album on the “Repeat After Me” interlude. The Weeknd concludes his fourth album, echoing a desire to leave the fast life behind and asking for one last chance at a normal life.

Though it may be missing the unique, dark sound of The Weeknd’s early music, found on songs like “D.D.” and “The Hills,” as well as the beauty and optimism found on “True Colors” and “I Feel It Coming” from “Starboy,” “After Hours” is the most consistently solid project The Weeknd has dropped so far.

“It’s not bad background music to try on jeans to. But I don’t think I will be playing it again.”

Isabelle Eddisford, HSU political science and dance major

This album marks a growth in his discipline, but also in experimentation. Following the massive success of “Starboy” and the widely-positive reception of “My Dear Melancholy,” the less-than-spectacular “After Hours” might just leave all of his fans a little disappointed.

Isabelle Eddisford, an HSU student studying political science and dance, felt disappointed that the new songs sounded the same. She described the album as something that would be playing in an Abercrombie and Fitch store.

“It’s not bad background music to try on jeans to,” Eddisford said. “But I don’t think I will be playing it again.”

With predicted first-week sales of 400,000 units for “After Hours,” The Weeknd’s continued success in the pop genre may mean the death of his dark times.

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