Welcome to 103.5 Dawn FM, the newest musical spectacle from Toronto’s very own The Weeknd. While not as emotionally healing or narratively layered as 2020s After Hours, the 52-minute radio broadcast is still an exuberant spectacular that breaks ground on a new era for the 31-year-old singer.
With the moon beaming and his beard turning grey, Abel creates the project’s mystical atmosphere through a heavy synthpop influence. As all Weeknd records, he puts his signature spin all over this sound, giving the synth-heavy style such an energy, the album sounds like something reminiscent of 80s dance-era music. Personifying this idea by dedicating an entire track to a spoken-word interlude to the father of this era in Quincy Jones, The Weeknd truly fools us into thinking we are within the midst of listening to the b*stardchild of Micheal Jackson’s Thriller.
With his high pitch, heart-shattering vocals, The Weeknd’s vocals mesh together with the project’s electronic coating in such a memorizing way. Creating this special flare, The Weeknd delivers a series of one-of-a-kind energetic ballads, including “Take My Breath” and “How Do I Make You Love Me?”. From the rhythmic buildup to the pulsing synth lines, the production seen throughout these cuts makes for some of the most dynamic and memorable sounding moments in all of The Weeknd’s stored catalog.
Before these dance ballads even have the chance to overstate themselves, the project steers into a sonically calmer but topically darker direction following the spoken word interlude “A Tale By Quincy.” Filled with emotion to the brim, moments like “Out of Time” and “Is There Someone Else” become the newest victims to The Weeknd’s dramatic singing and paranoid songwriting. Hearing Abel singing so brutally and open about himself, we start to feel the same feeling of heartbreak that we cried over on After Hours but in a much rawer lense. While the emotional highs result in some of the LP’s best moments, this portion of the project also features some pretty dull cuts like “Best Friends,” which features production that feels unfinished and brainless songwriting to send things into a full disastrous spiral. Still, cuts like the blissful “Here We Go…Again” redeem these flaws with second after second of pure beauty and even a brief but lively Tyler The Creator feature.
Building up this emotional roller coaster, the cries of “Starry Eyes” and “Don’t Break My Heart” prelude The Weeknd’s eventual demise, and with the radio station pointing more and more to the ideas of death with each one of its broadcasts, The Weeknd strings listeners into this confusing but intriguing presentation of storytelling. Ending the album on a string of misery, the glamour, and upbeatness in the sound of “I Heard You’re Married” creates a haunting dynamic as both The Weeknd and Lil Wayne paint their confusion and distaste for those who go behind their partners back and end up sabotaging their own relationships. With so much destruction being portrayed in such a pleasant setting, The Weeknd’s final goodbye in “Less Than Zero” serves as a final curtain call to all of the pain he has been facing for two entire albums at this point. Examining his own conscience, Abel finally understands his cold-hearted mistakes and realizes he will never be able to free himself of all the pain and guilt he has caused. Realizing the only way out of this pain is death, the beautifully written outro “Phantom Regret by Jim” showcases the one and only Jim Carrey taking in all of The Weeknd’s sorrow. Leaving all of this behind, we finally learn that the entire purpose of Dawn FM was to destroy one’s soul, as it is the only way to ultimately set it free.
Between its one-of-a-kind sound to its painful examination of self, Dawn FM is a great companion album to After Hours and further proof that The Weeknd is one of the best artists of our generation. While its concept is messy, the beaming emotion and closure to an unforgettable era of The Weeknd’s character makes for one of the greatest follow-up albums music has seen in recent memory. Whether he continues to stay in this synthpop direction or pursues a whole different sound on his next project, The Weeknd has solidified himself as someone who can excel in any style he aims for.
- Out of Time
- Less Than Zero
- Is There Someone Else?
- How Do I Make You Love Me?
- Starry Eyes
- Don’t Break My Heart
- Here We Go…Again (feat. Tyler The Creator)
- Take My Breath
- I Heard You’re Married (feat. Lil Wayne)
- Phantom Regret By Jim
- A Tale By Quincy
- Every Angel is Terrifying
- Best Friends
- Dawn FM
Written By: Mr. Fantastic