After Hours is The Weeknd's fourth studio album that was released on March 20, 2020 by XO & Republic Records.
The album received widely positive reviews from critics, with some praising the album as The Weeknd's best piece of work. It debuted on top of the Billboard 200, earning 444,000 album-equivalent units (of which 275,000 were in pure sales) marking the biggest first week sales of 2020 for an album.
The album was The Weeknd's fourth number-one album, topping the Billboard 200 for four consecutive weeks. It also reached number one in 16 other countries, including Canada and the United Kingdom.
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, he 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, he further reassured fans that he was working on his fourth studio album on August 6, 2019.
On November 24, 2019, after a five-month period of silence, 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. 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 release of "After Hours", the album's tracklist was released 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 aestheticEdit
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).
The Weeknd'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 C. Taylor.
Nabil Elderkin handled the photography and video direction for the promotional material of the deluxe version of the project, in this material, The Weeknd 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 that The Weeknd worn 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.
- Alone Again
- Too Late
- Hardest To Love
- Scared To Live
- Escape From LA
- Blinding Lights
- In Your Eyes
- Save Your Tears
- Repeat After Me (Interlude)
- After Hours
- Until I Bleed Out
Deluxe edition bonus tracks
- Nothing Compares
- Missed You
- Final Lullaby
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.
The album debuted atop the US Billboard 200 with 444,000 album-equivalent units, (including 275,000 pure album sales), making it The Weeknd's fourth number-one album, and marked the biggest first week sales of 2020 for an album.
Additionally, after the album's first week of availability, all 14 songs charted on the Billboard Hot 100, with ten of them in the top 40, led by "Blinding Lights" at #1 and "In Your Eyes" debuting the highest, at #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 2019 album, "Hollywood's Bleeding."
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. Its the first album to notch four consecutive weeks since Drake's 2018 album, "Scorpion."
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 album 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.
On November 27, 2019, the album's lead single, "Heartless", was released digitally on music stores and streaming services. It 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."
The single peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming 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 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and reached number one in various other countries, becoming his first chart topper in the United Kingdom and Australia. Its music video is set in the aftermath of the "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 music video follows the storyline of the previously released visuals and was released on March 23, 2020.
Promotional singles and other songsEdit
On February 18, 2020, The Weeknd 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 February 20, 2020, The After Hours Tour was announced by The Weeknd through social media. It is set to span North America and Europe.
The tour will last throughout the latter half of 2020, beginning on June 11, 2020 and ending on November 12, 2020. Sabrina Claudio, Don Toliver and Black Atlass are set to open the tour.
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 & Prince in the past.
On January 22, 2020, "Blinding Lights" was performed on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" The Weeknd'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.
The Weeknd was announced as a performer for the March 7, 2020 episode of the 45th season of "Saturday Night Live." During his appearance, he 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.
"After Hours" was met with widely positive reviews. At Metacritic, the album received an average score of 80, based on 20 reviews.
Aggregator AnyDecentMusic? gave it 7.7 out of 10, based on their assessment of the critical consensus. Album of the Year assessed the critical consensus as 80 out of 100, based on 18 reviews.
Writing for Consequence of Sound, Candace McDuffie acclaimed 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 the album 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 he [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.