When The Weeknd first started to become popular on the Hip Hop and R&B blogs about 10 years ago, I don’t think even he could have predicted where his career would end up going. The only thing that is similar about the music he made when he was first starting to what he makes now is his extremely recognizable tone of voice. Over the last decade, The Weeknd has gone from an underground innovative Hip Hop artist to an innovative Pop Superstar. His willingness to always push boundaries and start trends has not changed; The Weeknd has always been someone who other artists follow. Over the years, he has gone from making Hip Hop to Pop music, while always keeping an R&B feeling to what he is doing. He has seemed to fall in love with 1980s Funk, New Wave, and Synth Pop music, and he has started a trend in Pop that feels like a futuristic version of these 1980s musical themes. His 2019 record After Hours topped the charts and was critically acclaimed. Most people would take a little break after such a big record, but The Weeknd is not most people. Instead, he dropped a variety of singles in 2021, only one of which is on this new record. Speaking of the new record, Dawn FM, it was a bit of a surprise, as The Weeknd decided to release it with very little promotion at the beginning of this year instead of doing a traditional album rollout. The Weeknd has become so big and so good at what he does that he doesn’t have to follow any rules anymore. He is going to do what he wants, and we will all benefit from his greatness. With that being said, here is my review of Dawn FM. Please let me know in the comments how you feel about this record, and also let me know what your favorite songs are from Dawn FM.
The theme of this record is based around a radio station for Purgatory, and the first “track” on this record is like an introduction to the music for that hour on this radio station. The first half is like a little radio station jingle, and the second half is the DJ welcoming the listening to an hour of music on 103.5 Dawn FM. During this intro, the DJ(who is played by Jim Carrey) states we have “been in the dark too long,” and that he is now welcoming us into the light. This is quite the way to start a record. Following this, we get “Gasoline,” which sounds like an extra futuristic version of an 80s Synth-Pop New Wave song by an artist like Devo or Flock of Seagulls. This song has an extremely funky riff that is bound to get the dance floor going. The vocal performance on this track is nuts. On the verses, The Weeknd’s voice is altered to a weird low-pitch that sounds very robotic, and on the chorus, his voice is as sweet and sultry as it ever is in its high pitch. On ‘Gasoline,’ The Weeknd is gaslighting his lover into staying with him. He claims she is the only thing he has, and that he needs her as he goes on his never-ending drug benders. ‘How Do I Make You Love Me?’ keeps the funky Synth-Pop theme from the last song going in full force. This is another song that has such a New Wave feel to it. Even though the melody has a bright tone, the atmospheric quality of it almost gives it a dark and Gothic quality. ‘How Do I Make You Love Me?’ is produced by Swedish House Mafia, and it does have an underlying House music tone to it. This track feels like something that would play during the quality of a Romantic Drama film like Footloose. It is a song that brings so much energy, and I bet it will go on a lot of break-up playlists. On ‘How Do I Make You Love Me?’ is trying to figure out what he can do to not lose his lover, and it is seemingly all in vain. Next, we get the only official single releases in anticipation of this record, ‘Take My Breath.’ This track reminds me a lot of Michael Jackson. The instrumental does follow the Synth Pop pattern of the songs that precede it, but this one is decidedly more R&B in my opinion. It has a Funky quality that is so reminiscent of the King of Pop. I honestly underrated this song when it came out, and I should have included it in my 2021 year-end lists because it is such a fun bop. On ‘Take My Breath,’ The Weeknd setting his lover know how much he wants her, and that she makes him lose his breath whenever they are together.
Speaking of Michael Jackson, the song ‘Sacrifice’ reminds me even more of MJ than the song that preceded it. It is pretty obvious from the guitar riff on this track that Quincy Jones at least had a hand in producing it. This song has a signature guitar melody and bass line that are so reminiscent of the song from Michael Jackson’s record Thriller. If you just played this instrumental and said it was a throwaway from an MJ record, I would probably believe you. There is also a Swedish House Mafia remix to this song that has a Deep House tone to it, and I can’t decide if I like it or the original better. Unsurprisingly, The Weeknd’s voice fits this instrumental perfectly, honestly, his vocals are a bit reminiscent of Michael Jackson on this track. ‘Sacrifice’ is a song about letting go of love and being happy on your own. With this track, it seems like The Weeknd is starting to finally get over his lover who haunted him on After Hours and on the first few songs from this record. ‘A Tale By Quincy’ is a little interlude that feels like a DJ break-in between songs while listening to the radio. During this break, Quincy Jones about how the way he was raised has affected how he treats women and his children. He knows he needs to be better, but has a tough time figuring out how to do so. The next song, ‘Out of Time,’ has quickly emerged as one of my 2 favorite songs of 2022 so far. I would be surprised if it isn’t when of my top songs with the year ends. This track is just so fun, fresh, and ultimately great. It has a melody and overall sound that is very reminiscent of Japanese City Pop music. This is a genre that was popular in Japan during the 1980s which is derived from Disco artists like Abba and The Bee Gees. ‘Out of Time’ has such a bright and yet calm sound that is so groovy and which is bound to put anyone in a good mood who hears it. ‘Out of Time’ has a sound that creates a juxtaposition with its lyricism. On this track, The Weeknd is admitting all of his faults, and once again asking for a second chance from his lover. The song ends with another little DJ interlude, this time from Jim Carrey, who is reminding the listener to embrace the music and try to let go of all the trauma and stress from their past that’s holding them down. ‘Here We Go…Again,’ which features Tyler the Creator, slows down and calms the mood even further. this track has an old-school Disco and Soul sound that is so warm and cozy. The melody is driven by synthesizing keyboards and what sounds like a choir, and it is a very large and grand sound that makes up for the fact the song doesn’t have a beat. The Weeknd’s vocal delivery on this one is very reminiscent of his early Trap music days. His flow has a major Hip Hop feeling to it. I expected Tyler the Creator to sing on this song, but he delivers a low-voiced rap that provides a nice contrast to The Weeknd’s singing. On ‘Here We Go… Again,’ The Weeknd and Tyler are singing and rapping about a volatile and tumultuous relationship, and how love is not always what it seems.
Oh, is there someone else or not? ‘Cause I wanna keep you close. I don’t wanna lose my spot. ‘Cause I need to know if you’re hurting him, or you’re hurting me. If I ain’t with you, I don’t wanna be. Is there someone else or not? – ‘Is There Someone Else?’
The Weeknd brings back that futuristic New Wave sound from the first few tracks with ‘Best Friends.’ This song has a slower tempo than those, though, which sort of gives it a 2000s Pop/R&B feeling as well. The melody, though, is another one that sounds like it would be played during the climax of a 1980s Romantic Drama. I can just imagine seeing Kevin Bacon dancing around in a barn to this one. On ‘Best Friends,’ The Weeknd is telling his lover that he is too toxic and that she should not fall in love with him. This is so manipulative and it seems the menacing side of The Weeknd is starting to emerge during this middle portion of the record. ‘Is There Someone Else?’ is probably the most modern-sounding song on this record. It is also another stand-out that will be on many peoples’ end-of-the-year lists. This track has an R&B Trap sound that reminds me a lot of something artists like SZA or Jhenè Aiko would do. The intro for the song sounds like a sample, but it’s The Weeknd’s voice pitched up. This makes for a super cool sound. Speaking of vocals, The Weeknd kills it more than ever on this track. The listener can hear the emotion in his voice. On ‘Is There Someone Else?’ The Weeknd’s emotionally manipulative are more evident than ever. Directly following a song where he is telling his lover not to fall in love with him, he is accusing her of wanting to be with someone else other than him. It’s wild how he flipped so quickly. Sounds like gaslighting to me. The next track, ‘Starry Eyes,’ brings back the 80s Synth-Pop theme, but it feels different from the other songs on this record in that sub-genre. This one is slow-paced and does not have a definitive best. Instead, it has a low continuous bass line that buzzes throughout the whole track. It makes ‘Starry Eyes’ have a mysterious theme; it also makes the song sound kind of dark and foreboding. On ‘Starry Eyes,’ many people think The Weeknd is singing about his fling with Angelina Jolie. In the song, he refers to a new relationship with someone he idolized when he was young, and his good times with Angelina Jolie fit into that narrative. ‘Every Angel Is Terrifying’ is probably the most bizarre and interesting track on this record. It has a futuristic Synth-Pop instrumental that sounds like it can’t straight from a 1980s infomercial. The first half of the track is a spoken word piece about how our world and media portray angels. In the Bible, angels are terrifying and almost vampiristic creatures who struck fear into all humans. The way the media portrays them, however, is much more kind and soft; we are led to believe that angels are just basically better versions of humans, but they are an entirely different kind of being. The second half of the track is like an advertisement for heaven. The listener is being told that they can purchase a future better than their own with a small payment.
Disco Music and New Wave Synth Pop have been two of the biggest music themes on the record to this point, and ‘Don’t Break My Heart’ feels influenced by both sub-genres. The tempo and melody have a Disco tone, but the way the keyboard sounds feels like New Wave music. It is a very eclectic sound, and it makes me want to dance when I hear it. On this track, The Weeknd is describing a girl he is falling for. He is infatuated with this woman and feels she is going to hurt him even though they haven’t been together yet. ‘I Heard Your Married,’ which features Lil Wayne, has quickly become another favorite of mine from this record(admittedly, a big reason for this is the Lil Wayne feature). This track has a Synth-Pop and Disco feeling that is similar to the song that precedes it. This one has a brighter and fuller sound, though, and its groove makes me want to dance. On ‘I Heard You’re Married,’ The Weeknd and Lil Wayne are calling out their lovers for not disclosing the fact they are married. Neither of them are okay with being a side piece, and they are telling the girl to either choose them or not talk to them again. ‘Less Than Zero’ is another song they had quickly become a big fan favorite. Once again, I would not be surprised if this song is on a lot of year-end lists for best songs. On this track, The Weeknd fully embraces the New Wave sound he had been toying with earlier in the record. This one has no Disco influence in it; it strictly sounds like an 80s New Wave Synth-Pop track. The instrumental is so atmospheric and other-worldly. ‘Less Than Zero’ has a melody, tempo, and overall sound that straight up sounds like it could have come from a band like A Flock of Seagulls or The Human League. It’s such a cool, fun, and unique track, and it sticks out in the best way. On this track, The Weeknd is singing about his former lover that now doesn’t want anything to do with him anymore. The album ends with ‘Phantom Regret By Jim,’ which is a poem delivered by Jim Carrey over a haunting and dark Synth-Pop instrumental that sounds like the ending of an intense or dramatic movie(or in the case of this album, an intense and dramatic life). It brings that theme of this being an album for driving through Purgatory to the forefront. Jim Carrey is telling the listener to think back on their life. He is asking if they truly appreciated the beauty around them, or if they just coasted through not knowing how great it was. He is letting the listener know that they can make it to Heaven, but only if they let go of their regret. This track is full of deep and inspiring lines about how to accept your fate. It’s honestly beautiful. There could not have been a better way to end this journey than with the track ‘Phantom Regret By Jim.’
One thing I did not discuss throughout the review that I also loved about this record was the transitions from track to track. Dawn FM is meant to feel like one is listening to a radio station while driving through Purgatory, and this feeling is captured so well. Each song or interlude blends into the next one so well; this album was crafted in a way that makes listening through it feel like an out-of-body experience. On Dawn FM, The Weeknd was able to use his favorite themes and sounds in music and create a world that feels somehow above or at least disjointed than the one we live in. It has a message of finding what you love and letting go of anything holding you back, while also showing the flaw in humanity through The Weeknd’s admittance of his shitty actions. Dawn FM is a masterpiece, and I know it will serve as direct inspiration for so many Pop and R&B stars who are coming in the future. I will close this piece out with the last line of ‘Phantom Regret by Jim,’ which I appreciate so much: You gotta be Heaven to see Heaven. May peace be with you…