The Weeknd takes our breath away once more with “Dawn FM”

The Weeknd, one of the biggest and most unique pop stars of our generation, glides into the studio once more to release yet another captivatingly nostalgic synth-pop nearly an hour long album with “Dawn FM.”

Rang in the new year with a new groove, the Torontonian pop superstar Abel Tesfaye released this project on January 7 that featured surprising appearances from Jim Carrey, the iconic Quincy Jones, Tyler, the Creator, and Lil Tunechi himself.

Where his previous album “After Hours (2020) introduced us to death, “Dawn FM” picks up the narrative and takes us to purgatory, where we are found flailing aimlessly in darkness. Yet, Jim Carrey showed us a horizon of sunlight and welcomed us toward his voice through the soundwaves of ‘103.5 Dawn FM’, to which the record began.

Tesfaye provided us with a synthesizer galore–which he did throughout–as the bizarre track “Gasoline” began. Distorted vocalizations, groggy swagger, and catchy rhythms enlaced this song. That served as a perfect opener for the album and already made us feel blissfully lost within his soundwaves. The highlight of the track and what seemed to be the most mind-lingering lyric was when he playfully sang,

“You spin me round so I can breathe / It’s only safe for you and me / I know you won’t let me O.D.”

The grogginess he carried began to liven up with “How Do I Make You Love Me?” This dance synth-pop was sewn with psychedelic nostalgic 80s feels and heartbreak that makes for a palatable song, worthy of dancing the night away to. This song slyly transformed into the addictively good riff that is heard in the album’s hit single, “Take My Breath.” The galactic synths, the distant drums, the bass that rumbles like a small earthquake; these all make up a song destined to be in your head for hours. This track made a sure statement on this album and will be sure to make an even bigger statement once it becomes this year’s biggest hit.

Tesfaye dipped his toes into house pop with “Sacrifice”, creating another unmistakable hit. He once more employed repetitive guitar riffs, complimentary club mix-esque pianos, and a message that lyrically embraced his toxicity as he sang:

“Uh, every time you try to fix me / I know you’ll never find that missing piece

When you cry and say you miss me / I lie and tell you that I’ll never leave”

He is alone again (an After Hours reference), but he loves it. He no longer wants to sacrifice being a playing douchebag for his significant other, leaving her with, “Oh, baby. I hope you know I tried.”

After Quincy Jones’ fascinating interlude, Tesfaye–after picking us up for a spell–brought us back down to one of the most notable tracks from the record. “Out Of Time” is an unforgettable homage to Japanese city pop–with the ambitious sample, “Midnight Pretenders” by Tomoko Aran–that focused on his lurking loneliness after realizing that he is now out of time; for his lover has now moved on with someone who should have loved her how she needed.

The album took another gleeful turn with the Tyler, The Creator feature on ‘“Here We Go… Again.” 

This track began with a pretentiously boastful flow that let us know that he is truly in his own caliber: which seems to be his signature M.O. for at least one song on each album. With “Beauty Behind The Madness”, “Tell Your Friends” served as such. “Starboy” had “Reminder.” And “After Hours” had “Snowchild.” These tracks all served as a sort of victory lap, but this instance of showboating was a bit different for Abel Testfaye. He sang about finding love amidst his legendary success.

“My new girl, she a movie star / I loved her right, make her scream like Neve Campbell

But when I make her laugh, swear it cures my depressin’ thoughts…”

“… Life’s a dream / Cause it’s never what it seems / But you’d rather love and lost with tears / That never love at all / So here we go again”

Is There Someone Else?” is another heavenly synthesizer-heavy track that served as another chance to find his own identity in love and dealing with his own insecurity. This song swiftly crossfaded perfectly into the melodramatic “Starry Eyes.” 

Abel gave us more radio-friendly songs nearing the end of the record, beginning with “I Heard You’re Married.” This catchy rhythmic dance track immediately lingers in your mind, but takes a turn when Lil Wayne’s verse impetuously crashes into the song. 

Once more, this album is an ambitious dive deeper into The Weeknd’s signature and artistic cohesiveness. He definitely embraced his emotions and examined his mental stability a bit more with this album, which was a satisfying new look for the Canadian popstar. This new record offered a younger audience a chance to enter a psychedelic time machine and be cruised back to an era in music where funk influenced dominated all genres. The Weeknd stepped deeply into the sound he had found and once more met notable success, although not immediately topping the charts as he does so well, he offers us a wider variety of his irresistibly good music.

“Dawn FM” lastly seemed to serve as an olive branch from his previous After Hours, which left us excited for more. How will he bounce back from this adequately done body of work, and where will this journey of death that he is leading take us to? One thing is for sure: he will be sure to dominate the soundwaves of the culture throughout 2022 with the promisingly radio-friendly tracks from “Dawn FM.”

Ivan Manriquez (he/him/his)

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