Deep Dive to The Weeknd's Cinematic Discography Part 4: AFTER HOURS

Heaven or Las Vegas.

The Weeknd has repeatedly shown his love of cinema, citing David Lynch, David Cronenberg, Stanley Kubrick, and Martin Scorsese as influences on previous albums and music videos. Perhaps his most exquisite, cinematic framing to date, Tesfaye's fourth studio album After Hours draws inspiration from several legendary masterpieces from the 1980s and 1990s. Even the album's title, ''After Hours,'' is a homage to Martin Scorsese's dark comedy cult film of the same name. The film is about an office worker who has a series of misfortunes while attempting to make his way home from New York City's SoHo area late at night. Abel's chaotic and hedonistic lifestyle, like the one portrayed in the film, never ends, the recurring theme that has been seen in the previous works of the artist. Tesfaye brings back us to after-hours in Las Vegas and Hollywood, after previously employing the cosmopolitan Japanese city of Tokyo as a location and a key source of inspiration in Kiss Land. Just at the beginning of the album with the opening track ''Alone Again'' ''In Vegas I feel so at home/Falling only for the night'', Abel sets the tone for the album. The album turned out to be a considerable shift from The Weeknd's prior work, taking inspiration from '80s cinema music and new wave. Tesfaye's ability for both touching productions and pop elements blends over upbeat synthesizers with such cinematic and nostalgic elements. 

Perhaps the most successful pop song of the 2010s, "Blinding Lights" launched in a new era of pop music with its retro-inspired synth-pop sound influenced by the 1980s. The lyrics ''I look around and/Sin city's cold and empty/No one's around to judge me'' set the hedonistic tone for the overall narrative of The Weeknd's "After Hours" era. The Weeknd driving through a neon-lit city at night in the video, as well as the usage of slow-motion sequences reminiscent of Scorsese's atmospheric storytelling, further rounding out the album's 80's vibes. Other than Scorsese's films, there is much more inspiration from 1980s cult films, such as Ridley Scott's 1982 film 'Blade Runner.' In ''Blinding Lights,'' the character takes a car and drives back to Los Angeles, where he later dances in the 2nd Street Tunnel. This tunnel, being the essential symbol of Los Angeles has been featured in several Holywood movies, especially 'Blade Runner'. Another reference is David Lynch’s 'Blue Velvet', the scene where a sociopath man (Frank Booth) watches passionate singer Dorothy Vallens performing on the stage is directly referenced In 'Blinding Lights' the character is so enthralled by an unknown singer's performance that the voice practically lifts him off the ground. 

The Weeknd's "Heartless" music video pays homage to Martin Scorsese's 1995 film 'Casino' by putting his own twist. The music video debuts the iconic red suit of the After Hours era. The red suit is an obvious reference to the suit worn by Robert De Niro in Martin Scorsese's 1995 film 'Casino.' The "Heartless" video primarily takes place in a Las Vegas casino, similar to "Casino," which is set in the world of Las Vegas casinos. The video portrays the sparkle, glamor, and mayhem of the casino scene, reflecting the mood of the film. Rolling around Sin City, The Character and his buddy (played by Metro Boomin) are completely high on drugs, which is a direct reference to Benicio del Toro in Terry Gilliam's 1998 adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson's 1971 novel ''Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas''. The lyrics ''And I'm back to my ways 'cause I'm heartless/All this money and this pain got me heartless/Low life for life 'cause I'm heartless'' totally portray the hedonistic lifestyle and moments of chaos and recklessness, aligning with the themes of excess and decadence in the both movies ''Casino'' and ''Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas''. 

However, later in the album, the character goes from ''Heartless'' to 'escaping from LA'. He admits that when he's ''on the liquor'', he ''goes crazy'' and in a sense reveals the truth about the dark side of the sparkling and glamorous lifestyle in Holywood. ''When it comes to all these hoes, I'll never chase/But this world is such a, such an evil place''. Throughout the album, the Weeknd's character expresses his conflict between his dependence on the nightlife and the dark side of fame and money. He is aware that the lifestyle he is pursuing is deceptive and harmful. He is ''blinded by the lights'' and the mask he puts on eventually wears him down, and he begs, "Take me out of LA / This place will be the end of me."  

A mood of regret and introspection permeates the record. The protagonist reflects on his actions and choices with remorse and introspection as he discusses the complications of his lifestyle, particularly the effects it has on his intimate relationships. Songs like "Scared to Live" and "Save Your Tears" deal with heartbreak and the fallout from lost relationships as a result of his detachment. He admits in ''In Your Eyes'' that he ''always looks the other way, I'm blind''. The Weeknd's "In Your Eyes" music video grabs inspiration from various cinematic and visual elements, creating a narrative that complements the song's themes of love and obsession, as the obsession is portrayed as the Character wordlessly stalks a young blonde woman, similar to Michael Myers in John Carpenter's 'Halloween.' He heavily draws inspiration from horror and thriller movies such as Wes Craven’s 'Scream' and Alfred Hitchcock's 'Dial M For Murder,' to add to the supernatural and eerie mood on the music video as to add a layer of mystery and tension. The character keeps on stalking the blonde woman and she flees into a club called 'After Hours' which is a direct reference to James Cameron’s 'Terminator,'.

Too Late music video is subsequent to the story of the ''In Your Eyes'' music video. The character is beheaded at the end and the head of the character is found by two women on the side of the highway, which directly references scenes from Nicholas Winding Refn's psychological thriller movie 'The Neon Demon.' Continuing with the thriller movie influences to underline the video's creepy and unsettling vibe, the cult film American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis is referred to this time. When the two women realize that the head belongs to The Weeknd, they attempt to resurrect him by putting his pieces back together.

Lastly, in the music video for “Save Your Tears”, the character is seen performing for a group of masked people, which is a direct reference to Stanley Kubrick’s 'Eyes Wide Shut.' As the video concludes, there is a Joker allusion, whom The Weeknd stated was his favorite villain. Just in the climactic sequence of Tim Burton's 'Batman,' where the Joker pulls a gun on himself, the Character pulls a gun on himself, but instead of a bullet, the gun discharges confetti.