By DONNA BALANCIA
The Weeknd’s new album After Hours is a blend of R and B and 1980s synth, and it goes to prove that even those who can remember the past repeat it anyway.
After Hours has a distinct ’80s sound to it, regardless that in some young circles the ’80s are uncool. Despite awful jokes referring to “Boomer Remover” and the ’80s being a drag, that colorful era has produced some of the world’s greatest music. Especially synth-pop songs.
Young musicians, many of whom cover heavily traveled musical terrain, can only hope their customers have a short and “removed” memory. Especially those musicians without the backing of a big label. With After Hours, (Republic) it’s apparent that The Weeknd is capitalizing on both those who don’t and those who do remember the past, and it’s working for him.
Human League, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran and Pet Shop Boys have found some devoted new fans among many millennials, and these bands never lost their fans from back in the day. Much to his credit, The Weeknd takes the sound and spins it forward with modern synthesizer effects and references to current pop artists.
As for the style of the videos and artwork, it’s clear the inspiration was the Hunter S. Thompson novel “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” which was developed into a psychedelic movie starring Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro.
The tone of After Hours is set with the opener “Alone Again,” a dramatic and slow track that captures an emotive feeling of isolation and the deep bass synth, which takes a leading role. The opening song indicates a new direction from The Weeknd, who has been known to take chances with his work before.
“Too Late” is an emotional song that begs forgiveness and pleadingly asks to move on with a synthetic samba rhythm.
“Hardest To Love” has a distant and analog touch to it, complete with scratchy record sound and all. It is amazing how many musicians use the scratchy vinyl effect when only one generation ago it was such an undesirable sound. “Hardest To Love” tells about how compromise can be difficult and again asks for forgiveness and acceptance, please don’t let go. There is a compelling and catchy melody beneath a staggered beat.
“Blinding Lights” is the most upbeat tune on the record and it’s very reminiscent of the beautiful classic song “The Trip” by the UK band Still Corners, with similar note progressions. At least The Weeknd sped up the beat, but it’s something someone should have caught.
The Weeknd performed “Blinding Lights” on SNL:
“Save Your Tears” is another strong track off the record and could be a hot number on the pop charts as it has all the elements of a romantic ballad and presents with an upbeat style.
The title track “After Hours” is a haunting piece that takes the listener to a new place with compelling echo effects and simple and uncomplicated accompaniment to The Weeknd’s remarkable voice.
And while The Weeknd can show his appreciation for the ’80s synth genre, it’s clear that he has the uncanny ability to take an old style and with After Hours create a new classic to be cherished for years to come.
Stream After Hours on Spotify here: