By Allen Harder
The 2021 Grammy nominations are here, and so are the groans and disappointing frowns from music critics and celebrities alike. Many of my friends and I were incredibly surprised by the nominations for Album of the Year, specifically HAIM’s glossy 80s synth-pop album (that was actually quite good). While we were pleasantly surprised by some, others were nothing short of underwhelming and confusing. For instance, Coldplay’s album, Everyday Life, wasn’t even released in 2020. Black Puma’s lead single off of their self-titled album was just a cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car.” Disappointing, slightly. Annoying, absolutely.
The other nominations were subpar at best, especially the exclusion of The Weeknd, also known as Abel Tesfaye. The Weeknd was set to perform at the Superbowl as well as the Grammys, however, the Grammys supposedly locked The Weeknd out of the nominations as well as a performance. But if the Grammy’s can learn one thing, misprizing a platinum recording artist out of spite is more than questionable, and it will certainly outrage people. As for the artist that was snubbed, The Weeknd has been quite deserving of a Grammy nomination. His album, After Hours, consisted entirety of catchy, synth-based tracks that truly brought back a sense of nostalgia. Unlike Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia, it did not lack in production and consistency between tracks.
The record starts off with “Alone Again,” as he writes how he doesn’t want to feel “unattended” in a relationship and his struggle with drug abuse. This is a continuity throughout his entire discography. Features were absent from this solo project, as Abel takes us through a rocky journey of his difficulties, broken relationships and Tesfaye trying to wrestle a balance between fame and his own personal life.
“Scared To Live” delves into a more cinematic aura. The record almost glorifies and enlarges a sad breakup from someone he truly cares about. He regrets keeping her close, but she is left feeling more alone and unwilling to love again. The song progresses to a ballad advising her to “live life again” and be unafraid of another relationship, even one that’s not with him. Similarly to many of his other songs on the album, The Weeknd is able to juxtapose a sense of regret and sadness with catchy rhythms. “After Hours” is a great example of this, as he sings softly: “Where are you now when I need you most?”. But the synthesizers and hard snares bring a lively and exuberant sensation, allowing for the song to be extremely catchy. The album successfully conveys a sad sense of melancholy, and regret. The immersive experience closes off to an abrupt end with “Until I Bleed out” a return to the dark and somber atmosphere expressed earlier in the album.
Ultimately, The Weeknd’s fourth studio album is drug-fueled and heartbreak-driven and it continues to integrate the feelings of love and sadness with the presence of an almost villainous character, all expressed through dreamy synth pop. From Trilogy, to the somewhat disappointing Beauty Behind the Madness, After Hours successfully takes Abel’s next step towards cementing himself as a legendary pop R&B and Soul artist. For many, The Weeknd has already accomplished this within the music industry. What sets him apart is his eccentric stage persona and, more notably, his Michael Jackson-esque voice.
Going forward, the Grammys need more input from the vast crowds of viewers and listeners. It needs to be considered that well-established artists like Jay-Z with well-rounded side projects like “Black Parade” don’t really deserve nomination. At this point it’s quite overkill, especially when he’s already won 21 Grammys. Though the song itself is well-written and produced even better, it’s safe to say he will remain as a groundbreaking artist that has surpassed the need for more awards. On the other hand, we have to give credit where it’s due, especially when the artist is at the peak of their career. The Weeknd has successfully propelled himself to the top of the musical landscape and hopefully he will continue his reign within the the pop industry without the need of a Grammy.