Following the success of 2020’s After Hours, Abel Tesfaye (AKA, The Weeknd) returns with his fifth studio album, Dawn FM. A continuation of what After Hours started, Dawn FM blends The Weeknd’s love for synth-pop and dark themes. Like the concept album, Songs for the Deaf, Dawn FM parody’s the radio to carry the record forward. However, unlike the hard rock staple, Tesfaye’s newest album is a slow dance of melancholy masked as serenity. With Jim Carrey as the disk jockey, we, the audience, calmly experience the inner machinations of The Weeknd’s mind.
For most of the record, Dawn FM acts like The Dark Side of the Moon, presenting itself as one singular song instead of 16 separate tracks. At moments it is difficult to examine when a new track begins and another ends, making the LP appear as a 52-minute disco party. However, if we are to treat this album as one single song, I will do my best to highlight the standout parts.
Beginning our journey, the audience is treated to the atmospheric title track, which blends chirping birds, auto-tuned vocals, and spiritual commentary by Jim Carrey. Conveyed by Tesfaye are somber lyrics that appear hopeful with the singer’s delivery. Once Tesfaye’s section is finished, the sonic haze clears, and Carry’s first words arise:
You are now listening to 103.5 Dawn FM
You’ve been in the dark for way too long
It’s time to walk into the light
And accept your fate with open arms
Scared? Don’t worry
We’ll be there to hold your hand and guide you through this painless transition
But what’s the rush?
Just relax and enjoy another hour of commercial-free yourself music on 103.5 Dawn FM
Jim Carrey – Dawn FM
Following immediately to the second track, we have “Gasoline“. With devastating lyrics disguised under a fun instrumental backdrop, what makes this song original is the Weeknd’s willingness to include vocal variations. Instead of singing normally throughout, The Weeknd utilizes his voice in a way similar to a guitar. Consisting of weird yet wonderful deadpan vocals at the verse, he changes to his standard vocal “riff” at the chorus. Stylistically, the themes found in the song consist of nihilism, drug use, and a doomed relationship. The Weeknd seems to relish misery as, throughout the album, themes of pain appear more than once (i.e., Out of Time, Don’t Break My Heart, I Heard You’re Married).
And I love it when you watch me sleep
You spin me ’round so I can breathe
It’s only safe for you and me
I know you won’t let me OD
And if I finally die in peace
Just wrap my body in these sheets
And pour out the gasoline
It don’t mean much to me
The Weeknd – Gasoline
Moving forward, Sacrifice brings out a disco beat combined with funky synth notes and energetic harmonies. In the same vein as Michael Jackson, these harmonies blend with the lead vocals and equate to a fantastic chorus at the lyrics “I don’t wanna sacrifice.” This single is by far the loudest off the LP, bringing both swagger and righteousness to the dance floor.
“Take My Breathe” Incorporates a hypnotic synth that gets even better with each chant of the lyrics “Take my breath.” The song’s secret sauce is that the build-ups omit everything besides Tesfaye’s vocals. This ever-so-slight instrumental gap allows a massive chorus to unfold onto our ears.
Take my breath away
And make it last forever, babe
Do it now or never, babe (ah)
Take my breath away
Nobody does it better, babe
Bring me close to heaven, babe (uh)
Take my breath
The Weeknd – Take My Breathe
Nonetheless, the biggest highlights off the album are the spoken-word segments that don’t include The Weeknd. In “A Tale By Quincy“, Quincy Jones reminisces about the hardship of not having his mother around and the implications it caused on his life. In “Every Angel is Terrifying“, Josh Safdie tries to pitch the afterlife for a mere 4.95 dollars. In “Phantom Regret by Jim“, poetic spoken word captivates our hearts and brings our experience to an end. Each “song” never feels dull, thanks to the fantastic production and background instrumentals. These moments remind me of a great film never willing to compromise it’s artistic integrity.
Evolving so much from his first four albums, Dawn FM is a masterclass in the 80’s callback. Wholly unique in the album’s approach, it’s hard to place the LP as a “typical” pop album. Full of themes that include heaven, drugs, relationships, and suffering, it’s hard to gauge the “true” message. What we do know, however, much like a Dr. Seuss rhyme is, after one listen, you’ll want to be “where the Weeknd’s so good and he plays all week long.”
For more, The Weeknd news, stay tuned to Glasse Factory.