After Hours (The Weeknd album)
After Hours is the fourth studio album by Canadian singer the Weeknd, released on March 20, 2020, by XO and Republic Records. It was produced primarily by the Weeknd, along with a variety of producers such as DaHeala, Illangelo, Max Martin, Metro Boomin, and OPN, most of whom the Weeknd had worked with previously. The standard edition of the album has no features, although the remixes edition contains guest appearances from Chromatics and Lil Uzi Vert. Thematically, After Hours explores promiscuity, overindulgence, and self-loathing.
Prior to the album's release, the Weeknd confirmed that After Hours would face stylistic differences to its predecessor, Starboy (2016). Music journalists have noted the album as an artistic reinvention for the Weeknd, with the introduction of new wave and dream pop influences. The artwork and aesthetic for the album's promotional material has been described as psychedelic and being inspired by various films, such as Casino (1995), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), Joker and Uncut Gems (both 2019).
After Hours was supported by four singles: "Heartless", "Blinding Lights", "In Your Eyes", and "Save Your Tears", with the first two topping the US Billboard Hot 100 and receiving platinum certification. Its title track was released as a promotional single. In March 2020, After Hours broke the record for the most global pre-adds in Apple Music history, with over 1.02 million users. The album received generally positive reviews from music critics, with some naming it the Weeknd's best work. It debuted atop the Billboard 200, earning 444,000 album-equivalent units of which 275,000 were pure sales, marking the Weeknd's fourth number-one album in the US, and stayed atop the chart for four consecutive weeks. It also reached the top spot in 20 other countries, including Canada and the United Kingdom. After Hours will be promoted with the After Hours Tour, which is set to span North America and Europe.
Background and release
The Weeknd first teased that he was working on a new album in November 2018, via a performance in which he told the crowd that "Chapter VI was coming soon." On January 12, 2019, Tesfaye then proceeded to further tease the project and its sound by tweeting "no more daytime music" to fans, making media outlets believe that he was set to continue the darker music found in My Dear Melancholy. Following a trio of collaborative singles throughout 2019, on August 6, he further reassured fans that he was working on his fourth studio album. Then after a five-month period of silence, on November 24, the single "Blinding Lights" was revealed through a Mercedes-Benz television commercial, with reports of "Heartless" surfacing a day later. The latter song then premiered on the seventh episode of the Weeknd's Memento Mori Beats 1 radio show on November 27, 2019. Which in the hours leading into the release of the radio show episode, the Weeknd announced on social media his return to music with the captions "the fall starts tomorrow night" and "Tonight we start a new brain melting psychotic chapter! Let's go!".
On February 13, 2020, the Weeknd revealed the title of the project "After Hours" through a 48-second teaser. A couple days after the announcement of the album's name, its release date of March 20, 2020, was shared through social media to accompany the title track's release as a promotional single. In the last week leading up to the album's release, After Hours' tracklist was revealed on March 17, 2020. On March 19, 2020, the Weeknd announced that the album is dedicated to long time fan and host of the popular XO Podcast, Lance, who died the night before. The album debuted alongside the eighth episode of Memento Mori on March 20, 2020, with the Weeknd also hosting a Spotify listening session upon its release.
A deluxe edition of the album containing five remixes was released without any prior notice on March 23, 2020. On March 30, 2020, on the two-year anniversary of My Dear Melancholy, an updated version of the deluxe edition containing three new bonus tracks was released. A remix EP titled After Hours (Remixes) featuring the deluxe edition's remixes and an additional remix, was released on April 3, 2020.
Artwork and aesthetic
The artwork and aesthetic for the album's promotional material has been described as psychedelic and being inspired by various films, such as: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Joker, Casino, and Uncut Gems, with the last film having a cameo appearance by the Weeknd himself. Tesfaye's physical appearance in the era has been described by journalists as being red-pigmented, with him consistently maintaining a red suit and specific hairstyle throughout all of the album's promotional material, such as its artwork, music videos, teasers, and live performances.
The album's overall art direction was primarily handled by the Tammi brothers, with its design being handled by Aleksi Tammi, and its photography and visual direction being handled by Anton Tammi, who directed the music videos for the album's singles, and the project's same-titled short film. The album's creative direction was handled by La Mar Taylor. Nabil Elderkin handled the photography and video direction for the promotional material of the deluxe version of the project, in this material, Tesfaye continues the era's "Sin City" theme, with him residing within a casino and donning a black suit in the two teasers for the bonus tracks.
Notably, the black suit used in the teasers for the deluxe edition of the album and cover art for the bonus tracks and remix EP was the first time the Weeknd wore a non-red suit in the promotional material for the project since his first live performance of "Blinding Lights" on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (dated December 6, 2019), in which he donned a blue suit.
On February 20, 2020, the Weeknd announced the After Hours Tour, set to span North America and Europe. The tour would have originally lasted throughout the latter half of 2020, beginning on June 11 and ending on November 12. The tour was later postponed to 2021, then to 2022, due to COVID-19 concerns. Sabrina Claudio, Don Toliver and Black Atlass set to open the tour.
Super Bowl LV halftime show
On November 12, 2020, the Weeknd announced that he would be performing during the Super Bowl LV halftime show. The Weeknd contributed US$7 million to the halftime show, which lasted "roughly" 12–13 minutes, and took place on February 7, 2021. Dave Meyers executive produced the show, while Roc Nation produced and creatively directed. Hamish Hamilton, the event's annual director since 2010, returned to direct the performance. In contrast to past years, a stage within the stadium was built (as opposed to a stage on the field), to ensure the safety of workers and players. For the performance, he wore his signature red blazer and black necktie.
On December 5, 2019, the Weeknd performed "Heartless" for the first time on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert with "Blinding Lights" receiving its debut performance the following day on the same show. Both performances received positive reactions from critics and audiences, and were compared to those done by Michael Jackson and Prince in the past. On January 22, 2020, "Blinding Lights" was performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live!. Tesfaye's appearance during the performance on the show was inspired by the events that occurred within the aforementioned single's music video, which was released shortly before his live performance. For his performance on the March 7, 2020 episode of Saturday Night Live, Tesfaye performed a comedic track alongside Kenan Thompson and Chris Redd, made specifically for the show, titled "On the Couch", and the songs: "Blinding Lights" and the previously unreleased "Scared to Live", the latter of which featured electronic musician Oneohtrix Point Never and interpolates "Your Song" by Elton John.
Throughout 2020, various other performances of the album's songs occurred during major televised events like the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards, the 2020 Time 100 primetime event, the American Music Awards of 2020, and the Z100 Jingle Ball of 2020.
On November 27, 2019, the album's lead single, "Heartless", was released digitally on music stores and streaming services. The song was noticeably produced by American record producer Metro Boomin. At the time of its release, it was the Weeknd's first solo single since 2018's "Call Out My Name" from the EP My Dear Melancholy (2018). The single peaked at number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 and became the Weeknd's fourth song to top the chart, with it also becoming Metro Boomin's second chart topper that he produced. Its music video was released on December 3, 2019.
"Blinding Lights" was released digitally on music stores and streaming services on November 29, 2019, as the album's second single. The song peaked at number one in 22 countries, including the United States and Canada, where it became the Weeknd's fifth number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100 and the Canadian Hot 100 for four and seven weeks respectively. It also became his first number-one single in Germany for ten weeks, United Kingdom for eight weeks, and Australia for eleven weeks, thus making it his biggest hit single to date. Its music video is set in the aftermath of "Heartless"' visual and was released on January 21, 2020.
"In Your Eyes" was released to rhythmic contemporary radio on March 24, 2020, as the album's third single. The song peaked at number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100. Its music video follows the storyline of the previously released visuals and was released on March 23, 2020.
"Save Your Tears" was released to contemporary hit radio in Europe as the album's fourth single on August 9, 2020. It was later released to US rhythmic contemporary radio on November 24, 2020. The song peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100. The music video for the song follows the storyline of the previously released visuals and was released on January 5, 2021.
Promotional singles and other songs
On February 18, 2020, Tesfaye announced the release of the album's title track with the reveal of the album's cover art. The promotional single reached the top 20 of various countries worldwide, including the United States, where it peaked at number 20 on the Billboard Hot 100.
On April 7, 2020, a music video for the album's closing track "Until I Bleed Out" was released. The visuals for the song continue the themes found present throughout the promotional material for the album.
On July 22, 2020, a music video for the album's fifth track "Snowchild" was released. The animated visuals for the song continue the events of the previous After Hours music videos and also showcases the Weeknd during the six different musical stages of his career.
On October 22, 2020, a music video for the album's second track "Too Late" was released. The visual continues the storyline and themes established from the other music videos released in promotion of After Hours.
On February 13, 2020, the Weeknd released a 48-second teaser that announced the album's title. Journalists noted its resemblance to the digital work done in the 2019 film Uncut Gems, which Tesfaye had a cameo in. Its visual were also compared to those found in the music videos for the album's first two singles.
A self titled short film for the album was first teased on March 3, 2020, with its release occurring on March 4, 2020. It was directed by Anton Tammi and continued the storyline and aesthetics found in the visuals for "Heartless" and "Blinding Lights". The film is set shortly after the Weeknd's performance of "Blinding Lights" on Jimmy Kimmel Live! (dated January 22, 2020) and features various snippets of the tracks from the album as Tesfaye navigates a subway. It concludes with the Weeknd seemingly murdering a couple in a secluded elevator. The visual was noted by journalists as being inspired by the films Joker and The Shining.
In August 2020, Tesfaye collaborated with social media platform TikTok to hold an interactive augmented reality live stream titled "The Weeknd Experience" on various dates, with the first occurring on August 7, 2020. The virtual concert featured several interactive components decided by popular vote, that would change the scenery of the livestream. 3D visuals featured in the livestream included back-up dancers that would appear with the Weeknd, who throughout the virtual experience would travel through hyperspace in a red convertible, surrounded by lasers in the virtual world.
Another virtual experience collaboration occurred with Spotify during August 2020 as well. This experience titled "Alone With Me", allowed users to interact with an AI based on the Weeknd in a highly personalized manner. In the experience, the Weeknd AI would discuss with the user their stats in regards to Tesfaye's music, and play their most listened to songs from After Hours while the interaction occurred.
After Hours was met with generally positive reviews from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from professional publications, the album received an average score of 80, based on 20 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Aggregator AnyDecentMusic? gave it 7.7 out of 10, based on their assessment of the critical consensus.
Writing for Consequence of Sound, Candace McDuffie praised the album, stating that "As he evolves, he continues to reinvent himself, and he knows exactly how to leave fans hooked on havoc. And After Hours is proof that he's not done with us yet; in fact, he's just getting started." Exclaim!'s reviewer Jacob Carey stated in his review that "After Hours does feel like the Weeknd's very own version of Vegas – a place where overindulgence, self-loathing and promiscuity are not only welcomed, but encouraged." The Guardian's critic Michael Cragg gave After Hours a positive review, praising the "sense of narrative cohesion" on the album, saying that "songs bleed into each other, with sonic references dotted throughout to neaten up threads that previously [the Weeknd] would have left to unravel. By balancing the two sides of his musical personality – not to mention add some levity to that boring, bad-taste id – After Hours feels like the first Weeknd album in a while to offer up a clear, singular vision rather than something frustratingly abstract." Writing for The Independent, Roisin O'Connor stated that "After Hours abandons the danceability of its predecessor in favour of moody introspection. This is the music you listen to when the party's over." O'Connor further compared the album to the Weeknd's previous releases, saying that he on After Hours "still delves into a sadboy persona but there's a tinge of remorse that runs through, in comparison to the cold and often cruel tone of earlier cuts." Luke Morgan Britton of NME called After Hours "The Weeknd's strongest record in some time" and that "It's a record free of features and full of probing self-reflection."
Jon Dolan of Rolling Stone gave the album a positive review, stating that "After Hours certainly has its share of pity-partying. But there's also a vulnerability that goes beyond the usual too-beautiful-for-the-world sulking." Dolan also said that the album "hits the best balance yet of the gloomy melodrama of the Weeknd's early EPs or his 2018 release My Dear Melancholy and the pop slickness of his 2016 LP Starboy." Writing for Variety, Jem Aswad praised the album, stating that "The Weeknd is launching the next era with his most fully realized album yet, 'After Hours.' Sonically, the hallmarks are ultra-cinematic keyboards, pulsating sub-bass, hard beats (which are seldom danceable), '80s synthesizer flourishes and caverns of echo, all of which contrast with his high, angelic voice." Aswad ended his review by saying that "After Hours is one of the most successful musicians of the past decade testing the balance between innovation and commerciality as much as anyone today." David Smyth of Evening Standard particularly praised the song "Blinding Lights", while stating that the Weeknd's "in a bit of a fug" on the rest of the album. Tom Hull gave the album a B grade and found it "remarkably consistent, at least until the closer drags its butt".
Despite the critical and commercial success of After Hours and its singles, the Weeknd received zero nominations for the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards on November 24, 2020. The gesture spawned much controversy and shocked fans, critics and Tesfaye himself. He responded via social media calling the Grammys "corrupt" in social media posts. Speculation arose that the announcement of his upcoming Super Bowl performance, as well as the confusion as to whether he should be nominated as pop or R&B, contributed to the snubs in all the categories that he was submitted to by his team. Harvey Mason Jr., interim president of the Recording Academy, responded to the backlash by saying:
In response, the Weeknd stated in January 2021 that the snub felt like "an attack", saying "Look, I personally don't care anymore. I have three GRAMMYs, which mean nothing to me now, obviously...It's not like, 'Oh, I want the GRAMMY!' It's just that this happened, and I'm down to get in front of the fire, as long as it never happens again. I suck at giving speeches anyways. Forget awards shows."
On March 19, 2020, After Hours broke the record for the most global pre-adds for an album in Apple Music history, with over 1.02 million users pre-adding the album to their libraries.
After Hours debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 with 444,000 album-equivalent units, including 275,000 pure album sales. It is the Weeknd's fourth number-one album, and marks the biggest first week sales of 2020 for an album at the time. Additionally, after the album's first week of availability, all 14 songs charted on the US Billboard Hot 100, with ten of them in the top 40, led by "Blinding Lights" at number one, and "In Your Eyes" debuting the highest, at number 16. The album remained at number one on the Billboard 200 in its second week with 138,000 album-equivalent units, of which 47,000 were pure album sales. It is the Weeknd's third consecutive album to spend multiple weeks. In its third week, the album remained at number one on the Billboard 200 with 90,000 album-equivalent units (including 23,000 pure album sales). Becoming the first album to lead for three consecutive weeks since Post Malone's Hollywood's Bleeding (2019). In its fourth week, After Hours earned 75,000 album-equivalent units (including 20,000 pure album sales), remaining at number one on the Billboard 200 chart. It's the first album to notch four consecutive weeks since Drake's Scorpion (2018). After Hours was the fourth best selling album of 2020 with 2.032 million album-equivalent units, including 480,000 pure copies in the United States.
The album debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart with over 26,000 units sold, making it the Weeknd's second number one on the chart, five years after Beauty Behind the Madness. It also topped the chart in the Weeknd's native Canada, with 54,000 album-equivalent units – the biggest debut sales of the year for an album. It achieved a total of six non-consecutive weeks at the top, the most by a Canadian artist since the Weeknd's own Starboy, which led for seven weeks in 2016–2017.
|3.||"Hardest to Love"||3:31|
|4.||"Scared to Live"||3:11|
|6.||"Escape from LA"||5:55|
|10.||"In Your Eyes"||3:57|
|11.||"Save Your Tears"||3:35|
|12.||"Repeat After Me" (Interlude)||3:15|
|14.||"Until I Bleed Out"||3:12|
|18.||"In Your Eyes" (Remix) (featuring Doja Cat)||3:57|
|19.||"Blinding Lights" (Chromatics Remix)||Johnny Jewel||4:21|
|1.||"Heartless" (Remix) (featuring Lil Uzi Vert)||3:20|
|2.||"Blinding Lights" (Chromatics Remix) (featuring Chromatics)||Johnny Jewel||4:21|
|3.||"Save Your Tears" (OPN Remix)||OPN||3:40|
|4.||"Heartless" (Vaporwave Remix) (featuring Lil Uzi Vert)||DaHeala||2:45|
|5.||"After Hours" (The Blaze Remix)||The Blaze||3:58|
|6.||"Scared to Live" (SNL Live)||3:37|
- ^[a] signifies a co-producer
- ^[b] signifies an additional producer
- The deluxe edition of the album was initially released on March 23, featuring tracks 2–6 of the Remixes EP as bonus tracks. On March 30, the release was updated to include three new bonus tracks before the remixes. On April 3, the remixes were released as a separate EP, with track 1 added, while the deluxe edition of the album was amended to end at "Final Lullaby".
- "Scared to Live" contains interpolations from "Your Song", written by Elton John and Bernard Taupin.
Credits adapted from liner notes.
- The Weeknd – vocals (all tracks), background vocalist (tracks 3–4, 9–11), keyboards, programming (tracks 1–11, 13–14), bass, guitar, drums (track 3–4, 9–11)
- Max Martin – bass, drums, guitar, keyboards, programming (tracks 3–4, 9–11)
- Oscar Holter – bass, drums, guitar, keyboards, programming (tracks 3–4, 9–11)
- Illangelo – keyboards, programming (tracks 1–2, 5–8, 13)
- Metro Boomin – keyboards, programming (track 6–8, 14)
- DaHeala – keyboards, programming (tracks 1–2, 5, 13)
- Frank Dukes – keyboards, programming (track 1)
- Ricky Reed – keyboards, programming (track 2)
- OPN – keyboards, programming (track 14)
- Prince 85 – keyboards, programming (track 14)
- Notinbed – keyboards, programming (track 14)
- Nate Mercereau – keyboards, programming (track 2)
- Mike McTaggart – guitar (track 6)
- Patrick Greenaway – guitar (track 8)
- Rickard Goransson – guitar (track 10)
- Michael Engström – bass (track 10)
- Wojtek Goral – alto saxophone (track 10)
- Tomas Jonsson – tenor saxophone (track 10)
- Mattias Bylund – horn arrangement, synthesizer (track 10)
- Nils-Petter Ankarblom – horn arrangement, synthesizer (track 10)
- Magnus Sjolander – percussion (track 10)
- Miko Rezler – percussion (track 10)
- Peter Noos Johansson – trombone (track 10)
- Janne Bjerger – trumpet (track 10)
- Magnus Johansson – trumpet (track 10)
- Illangelo – engineering, mixing (tracks 1–2, 5–8, 13)
- Shin Kamiyama – engineering (all tracks)
- Michael Ilbert – engineering (track 4, 10–11)
- Sam Holland – engineering (tracks 3–4, 10–11)
- Jason "DaHeala" Quenneville – engineering (track 13)
- Ethan Shumaker – engineering (track 2)
- Matt Cohn – engineering, mixing (tracks 12, 14)
- Serban Ghenea – mixing (tracks 3–4, 9–11)
- John Hanes – engineering for mixing (tracks 3–4, 9–11)
- Cory Bice – engineering assistant (tracks 3–4, 9–11)
- Jeremy Lertola – engineering assistant (tracks 3–4, 9–11)
- Sean Klein – engineering assistant (track 9)
- Dave Kutch – mastering (all tracks)
- Kevin Peterson – mastering (all tracks)