Dawn FM sees The Weeknd at his most downtrodden and vulnerableTWITTER/TRACKLIST

Despite only really being familiar with the singles of his album, the announcement of The Weeknd’s Dawn FM piqued my interest: the cinematic yet cryptic trailer accompanying it left me bewildered and eager to learn more. Over the week leading up to the release, I dove into his discography for the first time and found myself immersed in his hedonistic world, fuelled by striking production and lyrical extravagance. His ability to bring listeners into his world, a world so inaccessible to the masses, is a testament to his lyrical skill, drawing you to sympathise even when you are unable to relate.

"Dawn FM picks up in the aftermath of this metaphorical death"

Ultimately, the title of his 2015 album Beauty Behind The Madness aptly describes the general theme of The Weeknd’s music: he has this power to display meaning and emotion, or sometimes the lack thereof, behind the crafted spectacle of his life. His universally acclaimed 2020 release, After Hours, is the pinnacle of musical and aesthetic ‘Sin City’, seeing him simultaneously lament and indulge in the darkness of his lifestyle. The album ends with him paralyzed and bleeding out, devoid of energy, hope and faith. Dawn FM picks up in the aftermath of this metaphorical death, flowing seamlessly from his previous release.

The album begins with a brief introduction to the narrative, concept and atmosphere: you listen to fictional radio station ‘Dawn FM’ as you undergo the journey through purgatory. It effectively introduces the themes of redemption and judgement that underpin the remainder, and the enchanting voice of the softly-spoken Jim Carrey is fitting for the radio DJ. Disco-infused and upbeat, the opening act is a re-immersion into the Abel that fans have come to know over the years: ‘Gasoline’ refers back to the nihilistic apathy of ‘The Hills’ and the infectious ‘Take My Breath’ is as impassioned and dangerous as his remarkably successful 2019 single, ‘Blinding Lights’.

"The Weeknd proceeds through a relationship with caution"

However, this soon takes an introspective U-turn with the first interlude. ‘A Tale By Quincy’ sees Quincy Jones reflect on his upbringing and how the absence of affection in his youth began to bleed into his adult relationships. Though slightly tonally jarring after the unapologetically epicurean opening tracks, it sets the mood for the trajectory of the rest of the album. Immediately after this, the story shifts: we move from watching The Weeknd at his lowest and most indifferent on ‘Sacrifice’ to witnessing the start of his attempt to overcome trauma and better himself on ‘Out of Time’.

The upbeat earworm, 'Sacrifice', presents The Weeknd at his 'lowest and most indifferent' YOUTUBE/THE WEEKND

From here, everything begins to slow down: beginning with the ballad-like ‘Here We Go… Again’, with a fantastic contribution from Tyler, the Creator, we listen as The Weeknd proceeds through a relationship with caution, expressing both his regret for his past attitudes and fear of falling in love; eventually, on ‘Starry Eyes’, he gives into love and accepts the responsibility for both himself and his partner. In spite of his cynicism, he is finally prepared to care for someone and to face the inevitable heartbreak that comes with loving.

"An excellent example of a captivating and coherent narrative in the concept album and is wholly suitable for dancing pain away"

After the equally amusing and scornful interlude, ‘Every Angel Is Terrifying’, which predominantly acts as a radio advert, comes the most vulnerable part of the album, firmly re-immersing the listener into its core concept. ‘Don’t Break My Heart’ sees The Weeknd recount the anguish of his former failed relationships, while displaying his desire for reciprocal devotion in his current relationship. Following this, ‘I Heard You’re Married’ presents his feeling of betrayal, as he tries to reconcile his feelings about a partner’s infidelity with his infatuation for her, building on the emotional intensity of the previous song. However, album highlight ‘Less Than Zero’ brings this vulnerability to new heights - the unfortunately, yet undeniably relatable feeling that one will only be judged on their “darkest truth” is one that plagues the hearts of many, in any kind of relationship. The soul-baring admission of guilt, regret and the difficulty of self-improvement from The Weeknd; the especially scream-worthy hook and the gentler, more pensive feel of the song both makes it a standout and wonderfully makes way for the closer, ‘Phantom Regret by Jim’.


Mountain View

The Lana record the world needed': Blue Banisters review

A spoken-word poem exploring the burdens of lingering regret and the key to inner peace, the ambient album closer exquisitely brings the musical journey to its conclusion. The path from the blinding lights and hedonism of After Hours to the self-deprecation and remorse that comes towards the end of this album is the lead-up to dawn, the new psychological and spiritual beginning for The Weeknd. Dawn FM is by no means a perfect album: at times, it feels as if it develops a little slowly, and the weaker transitions are noticeable amongst those that feel essentially flawless. Regardless, it is certainly an excellent example of a captivating and coherent narrative in the concept album and is wholly suitable for dancing pain away. Dawn FM sees The Weeknd reassert his status as the modern ‘King of Pop’ and sets a high bar for pop music in 2022.