Dark Light

Released: 2020

Label: XO / Republic Records

Featuring: Ariana Grande

It’s 2020 and XO/Republic Records is dropping a bombshell on us – “After Hours” by The Weeknd. A beautiful blend of shadow and sound, synth-filled melancholy, and the indelible, pop-infused darkness that Abel Tesfaye has made his specialty. From the opener ‘Alone Again’ to the heart-wrenching ‘Scared To Live’, there’s a captivating narrative throughline that travels at hypersonic speed, reeling us in with each beat.

Our boy from Scarborough has invited some friends to the party too. Ariana Grande steps into the spotlight for a remix of ‘Save Your Tears’, adding her unique uptown swag to the lo-fi beats of downcast Hollywood. This album is packed with top-tier production and raw, emotional songwriting that take the listener on a journey through the highs and lows of heartbreak and excess.

This is not just an album; it’s an encapsulation of The Weeknd’s dark, delicious aesthetic. Every synth-wave scorcher and amorphous, avant-garde instrumental meets perfectly with Tesfaye’s mellifluous vocals, painting a picture of an R&B maestro circling the drain of fame and fortune, yet embracing every second of it.

So let’s get into it. From ‘Alone Again’ to ‘Missed You’, here we are breaking down the album “After Hours” by “The Weeknd”.

1 Alone Again

In the radiating neon haze of Las Vegas, croons the eerily relatable chorus, “I don’t know if I can be alone again, I don’t know if I can sleep alone again,” painting a portrait of dependency and aversion to solitude. The Weeknd, shrouded in the artificial glamour of throwing “2000 ones in the sky,” is silently yearning for rediscovering his original self and a genuine connection, which is evident in the stark plea, “Oh baby, won’t you remind me what I am? And break, break my little cold heart”. Precise and poignant, these lyrics underscore a common struggle of self-identity and loneliness amidst the seemingly alluring glitz of fame and fortune.

2 Too Late

There’s a desperate yearning, acknowledged in “I said, ooh, I know I’d rather be all over you,” reflecting his lingering torment. The dichotomy of dark and light is striking; “when the darkness comes, you’re my light, baby,” speaks to the dichotomy of his world and how she was a beacon through his mental strife. Yet The Weeknd’s recurring revelation, it’s “way too late,” infers the past can’t be rewritten and their twisted paradise is, irretrievably lost.

3 Hardest To Love

The tormenting concept of desperately striving to hold onto a love that’s on the verge of falling apart echoes throughout the track. When The Weeknd sings, “And what we had is dead inside, yeah / You’re actin’ like it’s still alive / And you still wanna make it right, yeah”, the paradox of a love that’s both alive and yet dead leaves a lingering sting. The acknowledgment of his flaws, as shown in the lines, “I’ve been the hardest to love / You’re tryna let me go, yeah / And I can see it, I can see it”, brings a vulnerable side of the artist into the light. The vocals echo with a haunting sadness, but simultaneously, a relatable charm — a testament to the complexity of love and relationships.

4 Scared To Live

As he croons, “I’m the reason you forgot to love. So don’t be scared to live again,” these vocal punctuations serve as a profound and sharp admission of his role in the breakdown. They illuminate his regret and the remorse intertwined with the longing for his lover to not be crippled by their past, but to find the courage to live, and love, again. Such confessional candor aligns beautifully with the languid tempo, potent beats, and the emotional gravity of the song. It’s in these moments of vulnerability that The Weeknd trades his party-hard persona for that of a repentant lover, underscoring the nuanced matrix of emotions that inevitably tumble out post-breakup.

5 Snowchild

His candid words, “I used to pray when I was 16, If I didn’t make it, then I’d probably make my wrist bleed”, show a teenager wrestling with desperation and hope in equal measure. His ambitions, initially acting as a salve for urban reality, eventually become a jet-so-big reality, a potent testament to his perseverance. The refrain, “Leaving, leaving into the night” conveys a profound sense of liberation; a departure from his past struggles and self-destructive tendencies. Yet, he doesn’t shy away from addressing the perils of fame – the ever-watching paparazzi and the unappeasable thirst for success evidenced by, “Only thing I’m phobic of is failing”. In “Snowchild”, the boundary between the vulnerability of Abel Tesfaye and the persona of The Weeknd blurs, offering a stirring narrative of triumph, tussle, and transformation.

6 Escape From LA

With lyrics echoing the hollowness of a city he once admired, The Weeknd bares his soul on the track. His words, “Got the money, got the cars, got the ceiling with the stars/Got everything I wanted/But I’d be nothing without you” are piercing and resonate with a truth beyond the façade of superficial LA shiny things. The track sees him at odds with the city, yearning for something more meaningful than material possessions and hollow accolades. Even when shrouded by the warmth and wealth of LA, there’s a feeling of overwhelming loneliness and yearning in his words, “This place will be the end of me/Take me out LA.”. His candid lyricism combined with the pulsating synth beat paints an emotionally raw portrait of wanting to escape the trappings of fame and fortune.

7 Heartless

The lyrics “I’ve been dodgin’ death in the six speed / Amphetamine got my stummy feelin’ sickly,” reflect an endless nightlife filled with fast rides and intoxication, an echoing note of vulnerability beneath the surface bravado. “Tryna find the one that can fix me’ manifests Weeknd’s quest for salvation in his relationships, while resigning to his self-destructive habits in, “I’m back to my ways ’cause I’m heartless.” The introspective verses, “I lost my heart and my mind / I thought I lost you this time,” highlight his struggle with the fleetingness of affection and the persistent loneliness he faces, underscoring the title of the track itself. Yet, his reference to “Low life for life ’cause I’m heartless” induces a sense of defiance as he embraces his heartless persona.

8 Faith

The gut-wrenching line, “I’ve been sober for a year, now it’s time for me to go back to my old ways, don’t you cry for me” is a testament to the cyclical nature of addiction and how the artist fights a constant battle with his vices. The song also features depictions of the city’s allure in verse, with the words, “Driving down the boulevard is blinding; Always blinded by the desert lights”. This personifies Las Vegas, a city often known for its temptations, presenting it as both an escape route while simultaneously being a trap. The Weeknd’s journey into the depths of his own darkness is palpable and “Faith” serves as a confessional, illuminating his journey towards self-awareness amidst chaos.

9 Blinding Lights

“Sin City’s cold and empty (oh)/ No one’s around to judge me (oh)/ I can’t see clearly when you’re gone,” he croons, embodying the loneliness he experiences in the absence of a particular person who acts as his anchor. The lyrics reveal a desperate need for this individual’s touch, emphasizing both physical and emotional craving – “No, I can’t sleep until I feel your touch.” The assertion that, “when I’m like this, you’re the one I trust” further underscores the protagonist’s dependency on his lover in navigating through his desolation. The lyrical brilliance of the song lies in its exploration of vulnerability and longing, juxtaposed with the flashy and superficial lights of a city that fails to fill the void within him.

10 In Your Eyes

The lyrics exquisitely paint a picture of romantic struggle, using a metaphor of painful truths hidden ‘in your eyes.’ The lyrics, ‘I see there’s something burning inside you / Oh, inside you / I know it hurts to smile, but you try to’ express that keen sense of trying to maintain a facade despite internal pain. Then, in the powerful confession, ‘I’m blind, I’m blind / In your eyes, you lie, but I don’t let it define you,’ he acknowledges deception, but refuses to let it shape his perception of his partner. When he admits, ‘I tried to find love / In someone else too many times / But I hope you know I mean it / When I tell you, you’re the one that was on my mind,’ we’re hearing someone acknowledging past mistakes but yearning for forgiveness and a second chance. The emotional complexity in The Weeknd’s lyrics is palpable and makes “In Your Eyes” a standout track on ‘After Hours’.

11 Save Your Tears

In the lines “I make you cry when I run away / You could’ve asked me why I broke your heart”, we see an acute self-awareness of his own flaws and his regret over the relationships he’s broken. This introspection is set against the backdrop of a sun-soaked 80’s-style pop record, creating a stark contrast that adds depth to his melancholic introspection. The persistent refrain “Save your tears for another day” is a poignant plea for emotional reserve, sketching a portrait of a man caught in his own cycle of heartbreak. It’s a multifaceted look into the emotional complexities of a pop superstar, written with such poignant minimalism that it leaves an indelible impact on the listener.

12 Repeat After Me

“You don’t love him if you’re thinking of me,” he bemoans, illustrating a narrative so often threaded through the fabric of pop – the tale of lingering unresolved love. The potency is in the directness, dealing a gut punch of reality to an unnamed lover who’s moved on superficially, but maybe not emotionally. He’s drawing a line in the sand between love and physicality, declaring, “You’re just fucking, it means nothing to me.” In this lyric, The Weeknd exhibits a certain vulnerability, stripped of his trademark bravado. The raw honesty of “It’s been too long, you changed up over time. Why you, why you gonna even try to hide?” evokes a painful realisation of love lost. Despite its interlude status, “Repeat After Me” has some of the album’s most intriguing and emotion-wrought storytelling.

13 After Hours

A standout line: “Girl, I felt so alone inside of this crowded room”, acts as the nucleus around which the complex emotions dissolve into despair and longing. This verse captures a sense of loneliness, even amidst a party, indicating the absence of a significant other. The Weeknd drifts into introspective territory, admitting to his mistakes and his desire to compensate for the lost emotional connection. The cyclical repetition of the lines, “Where are you now when I need you most? I’d give it all just to hold you close”, creates a chilling portrayal of regret. The song is tinged with a sense of remorse, encapsulating the protagonist’s transformation from a reckless, heartbreaker persona to a vulnerable, repentant lover. It’s a profound study in self-reflection and realisation of love lost.

14 Until I Bleed Out

It’s an intimate portrait of The Weeknd’s struggle with his addiction, making him “so paralyzed” and “terrified.” The gripping verse: “I just wanna feel the ground when I’m coming down / And I don’t even wanna get high no more / I just want it out of my life” is a cry for stability amidst the chaos. His desire to “cut you outta my mind” may refer to cutting out drugs, or a person from a tumultuous past relationship. He repeats “I don’t need it anymore,” signifying his willingness to let go and inviting us to join him in his journey toward redemption. The visceral vulnerability of lyrics like “I’m bleeding out” drives home the gravity of The Weeknd’s emotional turmoil.

15 Nothing Compares

It expands on the overarching theme of relationship choices and their unwitting repercussions that permeate ‘After Hours.’ In the line, “Nothing compares to the emptiness we both share”, the Weeknd taps into the raw, universal sentiment of shared agony making it one of the track’s most gripping verses. The poignant admission, “You asked for my heart, but I didn’t know where to start,” showcases the inability to open up, making for a crushing paradox. Through the lens of this melancholic narrative, the artist reflects upon his struggles with his vices as he confesses, “I try my best to not get high again, but I’ve been stuck inside this place for days on end.” The Weeknd’s lyrics underscore the quintessential human struggle – living with the ghosts of past love and life choices.

16 Missed You

The song lays bare the protagonist’s inner turmoil over a lost love, as he futilely attempts to move on. Powerful lines like, “I hurt myself a hundred times just to feel something in my soul,” intensely capture the raw pain of missing someone who is no longer in their life. His desperate yearning is then laid bare in the succinct but piercingly emotive confession, “Yes, it’s true, I should’ve known not to let you go, let you go.” The repetition of “let you go” creates a profound sense of remorse, echoing the cyclical nature of regret. Despite its brevity, “Missed You” encapsulates a depth of emotion that resonates with the listener, underscoring The Weeknd’s lyrical prowess.

17 Final Lullaby

This introspective self-portrait is marked by a palpable sense of sorrow and longing, combined with a desperate desire for closure. With the poignant line, “I’m running out of time/And you’ll always be on my mind,” The Weeknd encapsulates the lingering pain of a lost love alongside the realization that time waits for no one. This raw vulnerability permeates the song, finding further expression in the repeated plea: “And I can’t make you stay in this broken place/And I hope you find peace/Close your eyes as I put us to sleep.” As the lullaby unfolds, the listener is swept into the ebb and flow of his emotive delivery, culminating in a track that pierces the heart with its sincerity.

18 Save Your Tears

Features: Ariana Grande

The poignant line, “You look so happy when I’m not with you,” is a masterstroke in empathy, capturing the pain of seeing an ex thriving without you. A sense of regret seeps through “Take me back ’cause I wanna stay,” highlighting the narrator’s remorse for causing hurt. But the chorus and title’s command— “Save your tears for another day” underscores a sad truth. The fleeting reunion only digs up old wounds, leading to a realization: “I realize that it’s much too late and you deserve someone better.” The infectious beat, layered over this narrative of remorse and letting go, makes for a bittersweet experience, but unquestionably one of the album’s most impactful tracks.

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