As we begin the new year, a famed artist, The Weeknd recently released his fifth studio album titled Dawn FM on January 7. Most would agree that his recent work is quite different from his previous projects as coming after the success of the acclaimed album, After Hours, The Weeknd had almost any direction open to where he wanted to go next. Dawn FM introduces a new concept and artistry from The Weeknd that clearly was never explored before, but nonetheless, very exciting to see unfold.
This 80s pop-synth project combines a very elusive and immersive feeling for listeners, with numerous songs on this album being perfect for different scenarios, whether it be a late-night drive or even staring at the ceiling. The Weeknd proves yet again that his style and musicality fit anywhere, anytime, and for everyone.
When I initially listened to this album, I was not that impressed. Usually, when I listen to The Weeknd, I’m confident in the song I’m listening to and will genuinely enjoy it. Meaning, I could listen to his music without feeling like anything was overwhelming or underwhelming. For example, with his previous album, After Hours, his transition into the 80s pop style felt perfectly executed, and did not feel too overstimulated. But Dawn FM was different, and many others on social media would seem to agree, labeling the album as “mid”. Especially considering the heavy use of autotune, and almost robotic vocals which made the album feel jumbled and overall very distracting as the listener is unable to focus on the musicality and lyricism of the songs, as it felt overpowering.
It was not until listening to it more than once that this album warmed up to me and I was able to enjoy The Weeknd’s artistry. He dives into many themes including the main one, the afterlife. What intrigued me the most was Tesfaye’s approach to the radio listening experience and with the stylistic, yet also eerie narrations of comedian Jim Carrey in tracks such as “Dawn FM’, “Out of Time” and “Phantom Regret by Jim”. This truly added to the listening experience and album's concept of the afterlife. Carrey portrays the role of a radio DJ who takes you along the journey of Dawn FM until you reach the end, which symbolizes the point of officially crossing over. This album overall made me feel like I was stuck in a dark waiting room with just this one radio playing until I eventually waited my turn to go into the afterlife.
I personally felt the radio-style and narrations of Jim Carrey were a bit overdone, and in the album's final track, “Phantom Regret by Jim” it is essentially a three-minute track of Carrey speaking. I understood that it was meant to stand as a conclusion, however, it felt like too much and overall unimportant. I will agree that Carrey’s narrations throughout the album added a unique taste to it, however, this final track did not add anything and felt like another distraction from the album’s overall message. A three-minute speaking just feels time-consuming and in my opinion, could have been done in thirty seconds. To bring back my previous point, some other tracks were also heavily autotuned and didn’t feature enough of The Weeknd’s vocals as much as others, so those were also unfavorable.
The album also had two features with rappers, Lil Wayne and Tyler the Creator. The eighth track “Here We Go… Again” featuring Tyler the Creator, could’ve been better without his feature as he just felt out of place. This track, featuring The Weeknd’s advanced vocals, was more of a ballad and one of the more special tracks of his album as certain lyrics pay homage to Tesfaye’s previous albums such as House of Balloons, Beauty Behind The Madness and After Hours, along with the hinting to his previous relationships with model, Bella Hadid and singer, Selena Gomez. However, with Tyler the Creator’s general musical style along with his slower and monotone rapping voice, it felt mismatched with this specific song and did not add much to the track, especially with his flow also being a bit off.
The Lil Wayne feature in “I Heard You’re Married” was a tad better, due to their flows being more similar and matching to the song's upbeat energy. This song introduces a similar, “The Other Woman'' trope, however, it appears Tesfaye is the other “man” with his significant other being married and lyrics like, “And I thought you were someone that I could be with (Yeah)
And it kills me that I'm sharin' you”. What differentiated this feature with the other is Lil Wayne’s comical lyricism like, “You walk down the aisle, I can make you run back” “And tell hubby I’ll kim him, no hub cap”. Lil Wayne’s flow along with the lyrical relevance to this dance-worthy track makes for a good feature. Both tracks by Tyler and Lil Wayne appear to connect to one another, as themes of marriage are present, but Lil Wayne’s musical style is more fast-paced and feels more in sync with The Weeknd’s style and approach. While Lil Wayne’s feature added some recovery, Tyler the Creator’s feature goes to show that just because certain musicians are successful, does not mean they should collaborate.
For my favorite songs, it is difficult to pick only one, as many other tracks are strong because of the Weeknd’s well-executed vocals and authentic 80s pop vibes. One track I will choose is Sacrifice. The song opens with a cool electric guitar with The Weeknd singing along to the fast strum. Many different instruments such as the keyboard are also incorporated to give a general 80s vibe, then when the beat changes into an energetic and electric dance-pop, it gives a shift in tone and energy, while also managing to maintain the 80s synth and reminding of a modern-day Michael Jackson.
Even with a few flaws, The Weeknd is still able to deliver quality music and put flawless effort into his work. Overall, this latest project was different than his usual, I think that’s what makes the experience better, and giving this album a thorough listen will be worth the while.