The Weeknd’s ‘After Hours’ Is Dark, It’s a Gut Punch and Fans Are Loving It

The Weeknd’s After Hours is keeping fans up, well, after hours.

As the world faces uncertainty amid the coronavirus outbreak and many millions are isolated at home, the new album gives fans some respite. Almost an hour of it .

Almost immediately after its release, The Weeknd and his new album became the top trending subjects on Twitter.

Abel Tesfaye’s LP is a dark, cerebral hit and a gut punch all at the same time, judging by the volume of memes and messages lighting up social media.

Check out some of the reaction below.


Jackson Wang Shares How New Single ‘100 Ways’ Mixes Chinese & Western Culture, Progress on New Album

After proving his impact as a solo star when Mirrors hit the Top 40 of the Billboard 200 late last year, Jackson Wang is setting out to share more of himself — and his culture — with his new music.

The singer-producer and GOT7 member releases new single “100 Ways” today, March 20, as the official kickoff to his upcoming second album. While Mirrors felt like a journey of self-discovery with a tracklist that showcased new sides of Jackson as an artist, “100 Ways” has a multidimensional purpose. With throbbing electronic production to deliver a slick slice of modern-day, pulsating pop single, “100 Ways” also comes paired with a visual that pays homage to ancient Chinese culture — with both elements equally important in Jackson’s overall vision.

According to the star, this contrasting approach is the crux of where he sees himself going as an artist moving forward. “I just want people to know the real culture in our world,” he tells Billboard in a first look at his new single and music. “I’m definitely trying to do a mixture…sharing what my life on this side of the planet is like with the western audience.”

“100 Ways” was co-written by Jackson and produced by Lostboy (who’s also worked with the likes of Anne-Marie and Zedd) and marks the stars first release as part of 88rising, the record label and international media collective that also represents NIKI, Joji, Rich Brian and more.

Watch the new music video below and read on for more on “100 Ways,” what’s coming next for Jackson and his positive advice amid coronavirus concerns.

Billboard: Why was “100 Ways” the right way to introduce your next project?

Jackson Wang: As much as I love learning about other cultures, I love sharing my own culture. I always say “I’m Jackson Wang from China” and I just want people to know the real culture in our world. That’s why I chose to express this whole concept in an ancient-Chinese love story. I’m this character who has this love, but I wasn’t able to be with my lover in my first life. He overcomes time and life to find her and tell her in the lyrics, “I’m the only one that you need,” how much she means to him and he needs to see if she feels the same way.

It’s really interesting how the song is so modern, but you’re presenting it with this historic concept. 

I’m definitely trying to do a mixture. All the stuff I’ve done in the past up to this point were rap- and R&B style–genres, and every time I release something it’s like an evolution and step closer to find my own true color as an artist Jackson Wang. Even as a person, I’m learning more and more about myself. I feel like my color really is that mixture: sharing what my life on this side of the planet is like with the western audience. The mixture that I have, trying to connect the dots and the in-between of those two sides, that’s the thing that I really enjoy. That’s the thing that I’m really going for.

Does “100 Ways” means a new album is coming soon? 

When it comes to my album, I would say it’s probably going to come some time within this year and I’m very excited. It’s going to be a full album. I’m starting to get into the studio now, but at the moment we’ve just been preparing for it and working on “100 Ways.”

You’re officially signed with the 88rising family now. How does their vision combine with what you’re doing with Team Wang and your other projects?

We’re all family. We’re all Asian, we have the same goals, too, to show a western audience how we’re doing stuff here differently in Asia and producing masterpieces. We’re also trying to speak from our culture, and trying to share our culture into the west.

What else is coming up this year?

There’s been a lot of unfortunate moments in 2020 so far and there are a lot of difficulties we’re facing at the moment. I just wish in 2020 that everyone stays strong and healthy — especially now, please wash your hands, wear a mask, don’t go into crowded areas. But when it comes to me as a better artist or a better person, I want to release my music just to spread joy at this hard time; just to have something to smile about, even if it’s just for one listen.

You’re based both in China and Korea these days, what have your experiences been like among the coronavirus concerns?

I was in China in January and now I’m in Korea for two to three months. But I would say, in China especially, we’re really doing — I feel as a citizen — everything to keep it under control, everyone’s being very careful. Wearing masks, washing our hands, everything is going well and it’s getting under control.

You’ve spoken about your journey to better mental and physical health, how are you feeling personally these days?

Apart from the virus — which is very serious and we have to stay home — but at the same time I feel like in life, in general, everyone really has to do what they love every single day. A lot of people might be working for a big salary or for other elements but, for me, I feel like you have to do something you really love and enjoy every single day. Because the vision is different, the feeling is different. When you do stuff that you love everyday, you won’t get exhausted or tired, you’ll want it to be perfect and you’ll want to go further and further. It’s a different feeling because you’re going to enjoy what you’re bringing to the rest of your life. I just really hope that people go for their dreams — risk it, believe in yourself, and go for the dream.

And I’m sorry to keep going on about this, but at the end of the day, we are all living together and I just feel like there should more loving than hating. There’s no time to waste on hate. Let’s love more and let’s share more.

The Weeknd’s ‘After Hours’ Has Arrived: Stream It Now

The Weeknd’s After Hours is here, and it’s arrived not a moment too soon.

As millions around the globe face lockdown or isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic, The Weeknd released his fourth full-length album at the stroke of midnight.

Spanning 16 tracks and running to nearly one hour, the Canadian R&B star’s new effort features the hit song “Blinding Lights,” which has lit up sales charts around the planet.

To launch the LP, Spotify partnered with the singer on an exclusive remote listening party and Q&A to give fans a closer at the new tracks.

After Hours is the followup to 2018’s My Dear Melancholy, his third successive No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

Stream After Hours below.


Madonna Calls Out Trump on COVID-19

Madonna has taken a shot at Donald Trump and his ineffective leadership during the coronavirus pandemic without even uttering a word.

The pop superstar posted a powerful clip to her social channels which tracks the president’s word soup on COVID-19 and pins it to a fast-moving calendar.

A montage of Trump’s false claims set-up the video like a bad joke, from his boasts the virus could die off in April “with the hotter weather,” to his “close to zero” comments on nationwide-infections, to his infamous line that “one day, it’s like a miracle it will disappear” to misleading tales of vaccines for all, to “it’s really working out” and his assessments on “the new hoax” and “our country is doing great.”

The video concludes on a stark graphic on the numbers of infections stacking up as the emergency surges on.

Madonna signs off with the hashtags #covid_19 and #quarantine.

It’s not the first time the Queen of Pop has popped Trump with a jab. Her criticisms of the divisive Republican leader have come thick and fast in recent times. In 2017, she spoke of the “nightmare” that was Trump’s election. And on another occasion that year, she was quoted as saying, “He’s actually doing us a great service, because we have gone as low as we can go. We can only go up from here, so what are we going to do? We have two choices, destruction and creation. I choose creation.”

Trump has faced a storm of criticism for his indifference to the health crisis and for spreading misinformation.

With the live music scene all but shut down and cash-flow drying up, Zac Brown tearfully released most of his crew this week. “We’re late to the game. I’m pretty ashamed of the way that our leadership has handled all of this,” he said. “We can’t rely on our government to tell people what they need to do…we’re less protected than a lot of those countries (with mass infections).”

Coronavirus

Steve Aoki Teams Up With EXO’s Lay Zhang & will.i.am on ‘Love You More’: Premiere

With anxiety spreading over the coronavirus’ impact on the world, the thing that we all need more of is love, and on Thursday (March 19), three icons teamed up to bring that on Steve Aoki’s new “Love You More” with Lay Zhang and will.i.am.

An exuberant, dynamic track that exudes pure passion, “Love You More” is dominated by Zhang’s effusive vocals, with the star — known for both his solo work and as a member of K-pop group EXO — crooning over bright synths, dramatic bass and slinking beats as will.i.am joins in with his dynamic rap and captivating ad-libs.

“Collaborating with Lay and Will was definitely one for the books,” says Aoki. “I’ve wanted to work with both artists for a while, so having them on one track together brought so much value to the creative process. Lay with his unmistakable vocals and Will with his hard ad-libs took this song to the next level and merged all of our worlds in the process.” 

“Love You More” will be released globally at midnight ET. The song precedes the upcoming April 3 release of Aoki’s Neon Future IV album.

“Steve has great energy and Will has a dope style,” said Zhang. “I feel honored to work with and exchange culture between these two. I hope more of these cross-culture collaborations can happen!”

“Working with Aoki is always magical, and Lay is an amazing artist,” said will.i.am. “This collaboration is cultural exchange at its finest, when East meets West.” 

Check out the exclusive premiere of Steve Aoki, Lay Zhang, and will.i.am’s “Love You More” below. 


Met Opera Cancels Season Due to Coronavirus, Stops Pay

The Metropolitan Opera is canceling the rest of its season and stopping the pay of the orchestra, chorus and other unionized employees at the end of March due to the new coronavirus.

The Met last week called off performances through March 31.

Met general manager Peter Gelb said he is giving up his $1.45 million salary until normal operations resume and higher-paid members of his administrative staff are having their pay reduced — by 10% for everyone earning more than $125,000 and by 25%-50% at the top of the pay scale. The Met is launching an emergency fundraising drive of $50 million to $60 million and has obtained pledges from its board for $11 million of that.

“We have significant cash-flow issues that we have to deal with right now because of the loss of the box office,” Gelb said in an interview. “We’re also at the same time encouraging ticket buyers to donate their tickets rather than take refunds or at least put their money on account so we can hold onto it and reassign it to a future performance.”

With a $308 million budget this season, the Met is the largest performing-arts institution in the U.S. Its season was to have ended May 9, and its 2020-21 season opens Sept. 21. The crisis forced cancellation of about one-third of the season and three high-definition telecasts to movie theaters around the world.

The American Guild of Musical Artists, which represents the chorus and singers, viewed the Met’s step as mandatory unpaid leave rather than layoffs since no artist contracts will be canceled.

Health care coverage for employees who receive it through the Met will continue, a decision praised by AMGA and Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, which represents the orchestra. Still, AGMA said in a statement “it’s simply not enough during this pandemic.”

“Our artists are facing a scary and uncertain future,” AGMA said. “They depend on performance and rehearsal fees to survive and they are out of work indefinitely.”

Local 802 said orchestra members and their families “are now facing the prospect of no income for an extended period of time. We believe that immediate governmental assistance is essential to avoid a brutal outcome for these musicians.”

Technical rehearsals for next season’s new productions will be compromised, Gelb said. The chorus usually returns to the Met at the start of August and the orchestra right after Labor Day.

The Met, citing force majeure, is not paying individual singers for canceled performances.

“In the history of theater and opera, in force majeure situations, artists who are very well compensated, such as those who perform at the Met, do not get paid. That’s why their contracts are written in such a fashion,” Gelb said. “That does not mean that we are not sympathetic and supportive of them. For the Met to be able to come back and be a house they are able to perform in in the fall, it has to be strong and has to survive.”

The Lyric Opera of Chicago, which called off its highly anticipated presentation of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, is paying the singers 10%, the company said. The Atlanta Opera, a smaller regional company, paid its cast for the two canceled performances of “Porgy and Bess.” The Houston Grand Opera said it will pay 50% of the salaries to artists in its eliminated stagings of Strauss’ “Salome” and Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.”

“Everyone from our star performers to the ushers will be supported during this uncertain time,” the HGO said.

The English National Opera sent an email Monday to the cast and conductors of three scheduled productions that “we will be honoring all contracts until the end of the main stage opera season, up to and including performances on April 18.”

No decisions have been made by The Royal Opera, Britain’s largest opera company, which said in a statement “we are currently working through the planning on all aspects of temporary closure with all staff and artists a priority.”

The Vienna State Opera said Thursday that ensemble members and administrative staff will continue to be paid.

“Guest artists who have already rehearsed for performances that could not take place due to the closure were paid for the time of the rehearsals and their travel expenses were reimbursed,” it said in a statement. “However, as contractually agreed with guest artists, no fee is paid for performances that could not or cannot take place due to force majeure.”

The Met has started a nightly free video stream of an opera, and Gelb said the website had 477,000 visitors Wednesday, up from its usual average of 3,000.

Coronavirus

J Balvin’s ‘Colores’ Essential Tracks: Stream It Now

“My favorite color is black,” José Álvaro Osorio Balvin, who is artistically known as J Balvin, tells Billboard. And, although the question was rather to know his favorite color on a personal level, as of today (Mar. 19), his fans will have more than one color to choose from after the release of his album Colores, a concept album in which each song is named after a different color selected in an unusual but effective way.

Each title is a unanimous decision of Balvin’s team and the color they liked the most on the day it was chosen. And, yes, even though negro or black is his favorite color, from Colores he chooses “Arcoiris” as the best representation because “it includes all colors,” he says.

Colores contains ten songs that will each get an accompanying music video directed by Colin Tilley (Kendrick LamarNicki MinajDJ Khaled) and featuring psychedelic imagery from Japanese artist Takashi Murakami.

This time, J Balvin steps away from collaborations which are common nowadays in the urban genre. He only included two collaborations, with Sky and Mr. Eazi.  “I wanted to break a little and show more who Balvin is,” he says. And, it really worked because Colores highlights Balvin’s growth as a unique artist who doesn’t need explicit words in his songs such as “Rojo,” or “Amarillo” which are story-telling songs in a genre that is full of harsh lyrics.

“This album was finally released because despite the circumstances (coronavirus pandemic) we stopped thinking about competing and selling. The idea is to bring light and happiness to people right now,” he concluded.

Now, get to know the Colores essential tracks chosen by Billboard Latin editors.

“Amarillo”

“Amarillo” which means yellow, opens the 10-track album inviting everyone to dance, to be happy.  The purpose of Amarillo is to kick off the fiesta with a lyric that says “Después de las doce salimo’ a buscar el party, Ando con los tigres estamos en modo safari” (after midnight we go party, I’m with the tigers on safari mode). The upbeat song confirms Balvin’s unique sound which is based of a fusion between reggaeton with a touch of EDM (in a slight way) which naturally will make you dance even if you are sitting. – SUZETTE FERNANDEZ

“Gris”

Bringing it down a notch from the head-bopping “Blanco” and the reggaeton “Morado,” J Balvin’s “Gris” kicks off with acoustic guitar riffs before turning into a sensual urban track. In a way, Balvin takes it back to his roots, using a similar tempo and drum beats as heard in his 2013 “Yo Te Lo Dije.” With lyrics such as “The same story that doesn’t end / there’s always something to talk about,” the song is about a man who is often judged by his girlfriend but she’s just like him. In other words, things are not black or white in their relationship. They meet halfway, in the color grey. – JESSICA ROIZ

“Blanco”

J Balvin stepped into the future, both musically and visually, with “Blanco,” the first single released back in November off of Colores. The dance-tinged, reggaeton song takes you on a wild trip thanks to catchy Spanglish hooks and hypnotic rhymes like “Fo’ real, Made in Medellin” and “yo te encendí como vela, y te apago cuando quiera (I lit you up like a candle, and I’ll turn you off whenever I want to)” that make the track fresh and stand out from the other more softer-leaning pop/reggaetón tunes on the album.  “Blanco,” shows off Balvin’s diverse music catalogue and set the bar high for all the other songs that followed on the album. — GRISELDA FLORES

“Rojo”

Me decido por ti, te decides por mi…” (I’m ready for you, you are ready for me) sings the chorus of J Balvin’s “Rojo,” perhaps a correlation with being ready to attempt a modal shift in his music with a song laden with pop cadences. The third single off his forthcoming sixth studio album Colores out March 20, pushes reggaetón out if its colossal ground with a spirit that imbues colorful harmonies and flips the genre stereotype. Produced by Sky Rompiendo written alongside Taiko, O’Neill, Justin Quiles and of course, Balvin, the song, which challenges unconditional love.  — PAMELA BUSTIOS

“Arcoiris”

The mix of the reggaeton beat with electronic music gave a new twist to Balvin’s music, but in “Arcoiris” he evolved by incorporating the real sounds of drums which is rare for an urban artist. — SF

Stream Colores in full below.