The Weeknd: Dawn FM — Album Review
★★★★½ of 5
Today’s Record on the Spotlight: #DawnFM, #TheWeeknd’s fifth studio album—an ‘80s-flavored record that picks up where his previous outing, After Hours, left off. This time, listeners are invited along on a directionless late-night drive, with only the radio and a sinister-sounding DJ (Jim Carrey) as company.
Dawn FM plays like a 50-minute radio program interrupted in between songs by the DJ to remind the listeners of how alone they are—and that music from the radio station is all the solace they could get as they drive aimlessly through the night.
And for an artist who has consistently released critically acclaimed records, this ‘radio program’ approach works perfectly for Dawn FM—clearly the Weeknd’s best album thus far.
Here are a few talking points.
Dawn FM’s approach allows for musical diversity (a trademark of the Weeknd’s songwriting) to work more seamlessly, since interludes precede each song, making the transitions all the more fluid. Unlike his earlier albums, this record sounds like one long medley that deals with themes that include heartbreak and introspection.
“I Heard You’re Married (feat. Lil Wayne)” and “Out of Time”: Right off the bat, it’s important to state that Dawn FM is a collection of killer songs; almost like an artist’s compilation of greatest hits. A few, of course, sound a little out of place (see ‘Miss’ below), while some are really good songs.
Two, nonetheless, take the cake as standout tracks. Infused with electro-funk elements that amplify the dissonance tenfold, “I Heard You’re Married” contrasts the frustration about temporary love affairs with a dance track that normally screams for joy.
The other track, “Out of Time,” borrows from a personal favorite, Tomoko Aran’s “Midnight Pretenders.” This is the Weeknd’s homage to city pop, a Japanese genre that has seen a resurgence the last couple of years thanks to the rise of vaporwave and its subgenre, future funk.
“Gasoline”: Even great albums could feature songs that sound like they shouldn’t have been included in the final cut to begin with. And despite the positive notice it has received, I still think “Gasoline” typifies the Weeknd when he tries too hard.
Mainly a new wave-tinged synth-pop tune, the single could have ended up on the cutting floor—and Dawn FM as a whole wouldn’t suffer a bit.
The Deepest Cut:
“Less Than Zero”: It came down to a choice between “Here We Go… Again” (a song that features Tyler, The Creator) and “Less Than Zero.” Ultimately, this distinction goes to the latter, a melancholic heartbreak song that masks the pain with a blissful, sunny synth-pop heaven. It almost fully encapsulates the Weeknd’s entire discography in one song—lyrical existentialism buried underneath a façade of utter hedonism.
At face value, Dawn FMis a continuation of the trajectory of the Weeknd’s musicality; heavily borrowing from the ’80s to produce a record that sounds as much nostalgic as it is contemporary.
What makes the album a pinnacle of the Weeknd’s artistry, however, is its cohesiveness. Delving further into themes of escapism and existentialism—something he has sporadically touched upon in previous albums—Dawn FM is the Weeknd at his most introspective.
What matters more is that this record is his best—and is an early favorite for the best of 2022.