Every artist goes far and wide to find their sound and only a select few actually find one. And, even of those handful, only an elite feel satisfied with the reach this sound gets them. Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, popularly known as “The Weeknd”, navigated these troubled waters to an extent whereby this album much feels like a coronation.
After Hours. After years of waiting, The Weeknd returns with his latest album. His legacy stamp for the Dark Knight of R&B.
From the early days of Trilogy, The Weeknd was 22 with an established sound, fan base and career path. He was the new hip niche artist with an insanely loyal supportive fan base, but it seemed he had higher ambitions than being an exclusive artist. He was already loved by thousands for his individual sound but instead, he became one of the biggest artists in the world while seemingly remaining in alignment with early content. To achieve a large fan base, artists tend to make their music more generic but The Weeknd is an anomaly. He re-introduced the world to a never-ending party full of drugs, sex and complicated situations all around.
To do this, he toned down his sound to broaden his reach, the fans understood Beauty Behind The Madness even if there was a slight sense of selling out to Trilogy die-hards. However, the results spoke for his actions. His success couldn't be denied and was begrudgingly accepted, the offering of Starboy wasn't. The Daft Punk directed output is one of the most processed pieces of Pop to come out last decade with many fans left frustrated. Yes, the success couldn't be denied but the sound was as far as Abel has ever deviated from why he was adored. For all his change, his actions were necessary for him to establish the audience, which he felt represented himself.
As the production and tone of his records changed, the hard-hitting emo lyrics stayed and with the audience established, The Weeknd went into the lab to cook. A balance was needed between the pop sound, which gave him his reach, and the dark sound which gave him his base. This new sound should represent his new status as a living pop icon but also the ground-breaking artist of a side of Pop which was rarely explored. After Hours feels like the conclusion of a long road. Abel always knew where he wanted to go. Maybe there was a little confusion amongst his fans but now that we’re here, all we can do is applaud the audio director of this journey and live in anticipation of the next album. Now free from the strings of reach as he has expanded his fan base – The Weeknd never needs to deviate from his sound ever again.
This album has established fans happy and more importantly, he has plunged a lot of new fans into the dark world where The Weeknd's music rings loudest in. To many, this will be their first full on dark pop experience. And what an experience they’re gearing up for, from the album’s highs (such as “Hardest To Love” and “Heartless”) to its deep lows like “Escape from LA”, the post-Trilogy listeners are being reintroduced into Abel's dark, broken and cold world for the first time.
On the Pop chess board, there’s two sides and styles – in white (representing positivity) and black (representing darkness). On the white side, pop is run by a supreme Queen. However, for the longest, an equal on the other side of the spectrum has seemingly never appeared… well, until today.
After Hours keeps throwing me back to the Beyonce’s "4". The purest light-hearted pop offering of this century, full of love, hope and even in despair – acceptance. The Weeknd needs to flip "4" and create a dark, hopeless and dejected world to drag us through before we crown him. While After Hours is proof that The Weeknd is not just a pawn in this Pop game, his crown isn't secure yet. Not until we've got that pure distilled version of his sound. For now, he’s the Dark Knight of Pop and represents the other end of the Pop spectrum in its greatest form. After Hours is a legacy stamp for a generational artist. He establishes his side of Pop by proving you can sell just as much as the bright-eyed Pop stars while being dreary eyed and dark. A sound was established today, remember that.
What an album, what a journey and what an artist!
Written by: Elijah Mwamba | Twitter @ElijahMwamba24
Edited by: Dithekgo Mogadime | Twitter @Dithekgom