Starting with an infectious 80s synth melody, followed by the heavy beat, everyone who knows music has heard The Weeknd’s 2019 hit “Blinding Lights.”
The song was everywhere for years, becoming the artist’s biggest hit to date, and even the #1 song of all time on the Billboard Hot 100. It spent 57 weeks in the chart’s Top 10 and became the most streamed song of all time on Spotify.
The song comes from The Weeknd’s fourth studio album, After Hours, a dark synth-pop and R&B record filled with themes of loneliness and heartbreak. This album was a career-defining moment for The Weeknd, a.k.a. Abel Tesfaye, launching him into complete pop stardom.
Tesfaye’s earliest music included R&B mixtapes, followed by more pop-influenced records made with mega-producers like Max Martin. Hits like “Can’t Feel My Face” and “Starboy” brought him to where he is today, but nothing seemed to give him more success than After Hours. It combines everything he does best, from the dark production to the soft vocals and vulnerable and descriptive lyricism.
The After Hours era began with “Heartless,” another of the album’s hits. Tesfaye discusses partying to cope with his past relationships. He accepts being “heartless” and unable to change. The song’s music video shows him wandering through Las Vegas streets and casinos and eventually licking a frog, causing him to hallucinate.
The video’s story continues throughout the rest of the visuals The Weeknd used on the album’s music videos and even his performances on TV.
Tesfaye appears on the cover in his signature red suit with blood all over his face. Eventually he started showing up to award shows with bandages all over his body, committing to the persona he created. All of this is used to represent how his heartbreak and addiction took their toll.
Anyone who enjoys pop and R&B music, or just has an appreciation for quality artistry, will be able to get something out of the 56 minutes this album has to offer.
Even in the star’s After Hours: Till Dawn tour he continued this story, connecting it to the following album he released titled Dawn FM. His Super Bowl halftime show ended with various backup dancers running alongside him on the field with their heads wrapped in bandages. To further the concept, he even created an After Hours-themed haunted house at Universal Parks & Resorts in 2022. It featured various sets and elements from his music videos and allowed visitors to fully immerse themselves in the terror of The Weeknd’s artistry.
The entire After Hours concept may be eerie and confusing to many people who aren’t fans, but that is what made it so unique. Few artists today are able to create such clever and unique concepts for their albums and execute them this well.
Anyone who enjoys pop and R&B music, or just has an appreciation for quality artistry, will be able to get something out of the 56 minutes this album has to offer. And with Halloween right around the corner, now seems like the perfect time.
The album has huge R&B tracks with dark bass lines like “Too Late,” and “Escape From LA,” but also features huge pop tracks that anyone can vibe to like “Save Your Tears.” From the album’s sonic structure to the often terrifying visuals, it will definitely go down as the artist’s most important and defining moment.