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Tuesday, Aug 9, 2022

Album Review: The Weeknd returns with a dream-like, new wave pop album in “Dawn FM”

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After releasing “After Hours” in 2020, The Weeknd has started 2022 off with a new follow-up album. “Dawn FM” takes a departure from the bruised and bloodied Weeknd persona embodied in “After Hours” into a period of growth and development.

The new album features 16 songs and continues on from the previous album as “Dawn FM” reflects on Abel Tesfaye’s past romances and mistakes. The album creates a sense of purgatory as well with The Weeknd feeling trapped in darkness with nowhere to go and only one source of sound.

The Weeknd also presents this album as an accompanying radio experience on the fictional radio station 103.5 Dawn FM hosted by actor Jim Carrey with guest appearances from Tyler, the Creator, Quincy Jones and Lil Wayne as “characters” to further promote the sense of purgatory from the album. 

The album also features Oneohtrix Point Never as the main producer who helps explore the experimental synth recording elements featured throughout the songs.

While the album rollout started a sense of mystery, the album itself manages to keep up with the momentum of mystery even with the usual pop themes The Weeknd is known for exploring on previous records.

The album opens smoothly as the intro song “Dawn FM” sets the scene for the album. It contains a synth progression following The Weeknd singing with an accompanying choir, with Jim Carrey closing out the record by welcoming all listeners.

While listening to this album, I really enjoyed the 80s vibes found all over, especially in the lead single “Take My Breath,” as well as “How Do I Make You Love Me?,” “Starry Eyes,” “Is There Someone Else?” and “Sacrifice,” which has quickly become a favorite for many listeners.

“Sacrifice” has come across as a quiet breakout hit from the album, featuring extraordinary co-production from Swedish House Mafia, an electro-funk '80s guitar distortion and a smooth sample from Alicia Myers’s “I Want To Thank You.” The song is a painful reminder of moving on from love in order to stop sacrificing one’s sense of self. The song feels reminiscent of The Weeknd’s first album, “Kissland.”

There are various sad, slow jams to be found all over the album as well, such as “Out of Time,” which might fondly remind listeners of a smooth Marvin Gaye or The Isley Brothers’ record as The Weeknd laments on running out of time with a past lover. 

Another sorrowful tune is heard on “Here We Go…Again” with Tyler, the Creator. The song is halfway through the album and looks at how the darker side of love often leads us to make the same mistakes again, which some people even think is a reference to his past relationship with fellow pop star Selena Gomez. 

While the first half of the album features the most memorable highlights overall, the second half often feels a bit forgettable and repetitive. For example, “I Heard You’re Married,” featuring Lil Wayne, feels a bit underwhelming with the 80s synth drum beat in the background.

Throughout the listening experience, there are various interludes reminding listeners of the radio station experience, including Jim Carrey and Quincy Jones on “A Tale By Quincy.” The album ends with “Phantom Regret” as Jim Carrey speaks on leaving purgatory to move on to find one’s personal peace with one’s own meaning of “Heaven.” 

With the release of this album, the music of 2022 already sounds promising, with only so much more music to come. On The Weeknd’s Twitter, “After Hours” and “Dawn FM” have been teased as parts of a trilogy, with the final album to come out sometime in the future, hinted at on the song “Every Angel is Terrifying.”

The Weeknd continues to push personal and musical boundaries on this new record, with hopes of further improvement to come on the possible future album “After Life.”


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