The Weeknd is coming.
After a one-year hiatus from music, the Weeknd announced his fourth studio album, After Hours, on social media last month. The album, which is slated to arrive on March 20, will serve as a follow-up to 2018’s My Dear Melancholy and his first studio album since 2016’s Starboy.
As expected, the singer has been pretty tight-lipped about what fans will hear on his forthcoming project, but he did drop a few clues about what fans can expect in his recent interview with the CR Fashion Book, as well as some hints on social media. So, as we patiently await the release of After Hours, the Complex Music staff gathered everything we know about the Weeknd’s new album below.
The artwork draws inspiration from the “Heartless” music video
On February 18, the Weeknd unveiled the artwork for After Hours on social media. The photo features a bloodied Abel smiling into the lens. The image appears to be a still from the singer’s “Heartless” music video, which he premiered in December 2019. “I play a character in the video who becomes compromised and then overcompensates with all the sins that Vegas provides,” he told CR Fashion Book. He also notes that the character depicted on the album’s cover is a “great introduction to the next chapter of my life.” In addition to the artwork, The Weeknd also debuted an album teaser. The preview mimics the opening sequence of Uncut Gems, which The Weeknd appeared in as himself.
There will be a supporting tour
In support of his new project, the Weeknd is hitting the road. The After Hours Tour, which begins in Vancouver, Canada on June 11, will include a North American and European leg, stopping in major cities like Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, and Washington DC. It will conclude its North American leg on September 3 in New York City, and begin the European dates in London on October 11. He will also be hitting Manchester, Amsterdam, and Berlin before ending his run in Paris on November 12. The After Hours Tour flyers are dark and feature the Weeknd in pictured as the character he played in the “Heartless” music video.
The tracklist includes three pre-released singles
Ahead of the album’s arrival, the Weeknd debuted three singles that will be on the album. In 2019, the XO artist began the rollout for his new album, dropping the anti-love anthem, “Heartless,” which hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. He followed with “Blinding Lights,” a track about constant distractions that only disappear in the presence of a lover. That song hit No. 1 as well. Finally, the singer debuted the album’s title track, a tale of a failed relationship, in February 2020. Judging by these three singles, the album will most likely be centered around the theme of love.
The album will introduce a new character
After Hours will be a concept album. In a recent interview with CR Fashion Book, Abel said his forthcoming project would take listeners on a journey led by one central character. Through this character, The Weeknd plans to explore emotions and experiences that his fans have not seen before. “I feel confident with where I’m taking this [new] record,” he told the publication. “There’s also a very committed vision and character being portrayed, and I get to explore different sides of me that fans have never seen.”
The story will pick up where the 'My Dear Melancholy' EP left off
In 2018, the Weeknd dropped his EP, My Dear Melancholy. The project sounded similar to the singer’s Trilogy-era with dark, brooding tracks about heartbreak. The EP was received well and applauded by listeners who criticized The Weeknd’s pop-centric Starboy two years prior. The Weeknd attributed the “sonic environment” on My Dear Melancholy to the project's success. In his interview with the CR Fashion Book, the Weeknd notes that “Heartless,” the album’s first single, picks up where My Dear Melancholy left off. “It was the first song I wrote after that album, so it felt fitting for me to put it out,” he said. “I play a character in the video who becomes compromised and then overcompensates with all the sins that Vegas provides. It’s a great introduction to the next chapter of my life.”
The album will show us Abel’s new state of mind
Over the past couple of years, it was normal to spot the Weeknd out at industry events (usually with then-girlfriend Bella Hadid). But these days, the singer says he’s more of a loner. “I spend most of my days alone now,” he revealed. “I don’t like to leave my house too much.” While he noted that his being antisocial is both “a gift and a curse,” he said that it “helps me give undivided attention to my work.” “I enjoy being a workaholic, I think, or I’m just addicted to it. Even when I’m not working I’m always somehow still working. It distracts from the loneliness, I guess,” he added.
Abel has also spoken about his “off-and-off relationship” with drugs. “It doesn’t consume my life but occasionally helps me open up my mind, especially when I’m creating, but when I perform I’m completely sober and try not to even drink. I’ve learned to balance thanks to touring,” he explained in the CR Fashion Book. It’s no secret that drug use is a key theme in his music. While Weeknd has not discussed how drugs will inform his work on After Hours, the theme has already popped up in the project’s pre-released singles.
The 'After Hours' short film suggests a horror theme
On March 4, the Weeknd dropped a trailer for his upcoming album. The five-minute visual directed by Anton Tammi picks up after the singer’s real-life performance of “Blinding lights” on Jimmy Kimmel Live in January. After the singer exits the stage, dressed as the character from his previous visuals, he talks a stroll through Los Angeles. His mental state continues to decline as he gets dragged through a subway station by an invisible force. At the video's conclusion, the Weekend is joined by a young conclusion in an elevator. As the elevator door closes and the screen goes red, the viewer hears shrieks of the couple presumably being murdered. While many of his pre-released singles discuss love and relationships, this visual suggests there could be an element of horror present on the album.
He previewed a new song on ‘Saturday Night Live’
The Weeknd hit the stage as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live on March 7, where he released a new song. On the track, which is titled “Sacred to Live,” Abel sings to a lover whose heart he’s broken. “I know things will never be the same/Time we lost will never be replaced/I’m the reason you forgot to love,” he croons on the deep ballad. Despite their failed relationship, the singer passionately encourages his ex to not be scared to live again. The soulful record follows the same trend of heartbreak and love as his previous singles.