Welcome to Limelight, the city’s least holy church where angels and demons coexist; dancing to the vibrations of the echoing base through the smoke and glowing against radiant synths. Sirens echo against the cold, hard, 1980s skyline. Blinding lights flash before your eyes, enticing you to come join the shared hedonistic experience that only exists after hours.
But wait, this isn’t 1986 and you are not in Limelight, but sitting in your house, listening to the masterpiece that is After Hours by The Weeknd. What was almost postponed as COVID-19 was on the rise, Tesfaye bet on himself and gave us something to ground us during these trying times. The album’s healing nature is only what we can hope to be mirrored in the current state of affairs.
Never one to shy away from honesty when it comes to attempts at solving deep pain, we hit new levels after his epic breakup with model Bella Hadid. Listeners track the progress of emotional mending as he croons about empty feelings of loneliness and rediscovering what it is to be by himself after so long. Alone Again perfectly encompasses the longing to be who he once was pre breakup, yet juxtaposed with missing a loved one.
Accepting blame for the distance that existed between the pair, his response is seemingly healthy in comparison with his frequently sadistic, numb and drug fueled coping mechanisms in Hardest to Love.
Scared to Live’s ballad is equally loving and well wishing for his ex. Is this what moving on maturely feels like? Its nod to pop legend Elton John’s Scared to Love is easy to pass over due to its perfectly blended nature.
“I love him. I always have done and you can tell by the videos for the new album as well that it’s kind of … ‘Blinding Lights’ is such an 80’s-type record and it hits the nail on the head so perfectly, blending it with Abel’s sound,” John tells Billboard after listening to the album.
But as quickly as he might have seemed to recover, Snowchild, Heartless and Faith retract back to the low points in his post breakup depression. The falsetto of his voice against futuristic textures cannot hide his inability to address his personal pain. In Heartless he claims to be pumped up on Amphetamine and “back to my ways ‘cause I’m heartless” from all the “money and pain”. Similarly, Faith calls out the dark codependence behind his motives “If I O.D., I want you to O.D. right beside me”. Drug misuse and meaningless sex are juxtaposed with religion and stability, cold echoes ringing through the brain.
The synths behind Blinding Lights and In Your Eyes float and sparkle like thick cut glitter sprinkled in a dark room with the chops for making pop sensations.
The glamorous, speeding and twisting car chase that makes up Mercedes Benz commercials reflects that of the album, moments of beauty within pain. Cyclical patterns of recovery are both thrilling and concerning to listen to, yet somewhat relatable. So save your tears and buckle up for the glorious emotional ride The Weeknd takes us on during quarantine.