The Weeknd says “Faith” is the only After Hours track that doesn’t take place in the present, but rather recalls a troubling time back in 2013-14. “It’s about the darkest time of my entire life, a time when I was getting really, really tossed up and going through a lot of personal stuff,” he told Variety. “This is around 2013-14: I got arrested in Vegas, it was a real rockstar era, which I wasn’t really proud of, and at the end of [the song] you hear sirens. That’s me in the back of the cop car, that moment.”
He continued: “I always wanted to make that song but I never did, and this album felt like the perfect time, because of the setting of Las Vegas, and [the character needing] a kind of escape after a heartbreak or whatever, ‘I’m gonna go to Vegas and drown all my sorrows,’ and by the time you get to the end of the album you realize it’s more of a redemption.”
That’s how Las Vegas became the prominent setting of the mischievous-turned-murderous character seen in every After Hours visual so far — not just for what it represents (Sin City), but for what happened to the R&B crooner a few years ago.
“I wanted to go to Vegas and be this guy again, the ‘Heartless’ guy, the drug monster, the person who hates God and is losing his f—ing religion and hating what he looks like when he looks in the mirror so he keeps getting high, and hating to be sober because ‘I feel the most lonely when I’m coming down’ — that’s who this song is,” he said in the interview.
This ode to losing his ways and coming to the most chilling conclusion of them all — “When I’m coming down is the most I feel alone,” heard in the song’s chorus — doubles back to his 2011 mixtape House of Balloons, specifically the track “Coming Down.” “I always want you when I’m coming down,” he drones over and over in the chorus that he dusted off and polished for “Faith,” which both explore hedonism through his heavy drug use from the past.
A second 2011 mixtape, Thursday, ties into this central theme of tossing a higher truth and succumbing to Sin City: “Heaven of Las Vegas.” The hook of the on-the-nose song goes, “They say, they want heaven/ They say, they want God/ I say, I got heaven/ Well I say, I am God,” which alludes to The Weeknd’s self-exaltation while getting high.
Religion played its part as a metaphor back then and does now in “Faith,” but when asked about his own religion, The Weeknd wasn’t too sure. “I dunno,” he responded about being religious despite his “very religious” upbringing in an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian household. (He once donated $50,000 to St. Mary Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Toronto, where the priest remembered the Grammy-winning singer as a young parishioner.) If anything, “Faith” is a “misleading” title, according to the 30-year-old artist, because “everything is a test, and if you are religious or spiritual, you have to go through things.”
The Weeknd also described turning 30 in February as “not just a chapter but my second decade.” Turning back to his demons like the ones he revisits in “Faith” is crucial for his self-realization at this turning point in his life. “I’ve always been self-destructive. I’ve never brought harm to others; my problem was always hurting myself,” he told Variety. “So at 30 I realized I’m genuinely happy, I have my family, my friends, my company, I’m making the smartest music I’ve ever made, and I feel like my career is just starting. This is the beginning of another phase — not just a chapter but my second decade.”