The Weeknd’s “Dawn FM” is a new take on modern music

The Weeknds Dawn FM is a new take on modern music

Sahasra Simhadri, Contributing Writer

Canadian singer-songwriter Abel Tesfaye, more commonly known as The Weeknd, has released his fifth studio album, “Dawn FM.” Unlike his other albums, the radio-inspired “Dawn FM” takes the listener on an immersive journey in which he always imagined the central theme of the album to be a state of purgatory – making the listeners feel trapped in the afterlife as the soothing radio host, Jim Carrey, guides them towards the light.

Tesfaye’s new release consists of 80’s new wave, city-pop, funk, and dance-pop beats. He samples various 1980’s songs like “Midnight Pretenders” by Tomoko Aran and “I Want to Thank You” by Alicia Myers. The album also features vocals from Tyler, the Creator and Lil Wayne. Tesfaye’s previous album, “After Hours,” had such a contrasting tone to “Dawn FM,” and included major hits like “Heartless” and “Blinding Lights.” After attracting such a large audience with his previous album and 2021 Halftime Show Performance, Dawn FM may not be the music his newer fans are expecting to hear. 

Despite such a significant name in the music and pop culture industry releasing a new album on Jan. 7, there was barely any notice, new singles, or rollout for the album. This may be due to the fact that although Dawn FM truly encapsulated the creativity and talent of The Weeknd, the album tends to get repetitive and inconsistent at certain points. The album cover, being himself as an elderly man, portrays the wisdom and experience Tesfaye has gained over the two years of quarantine.

Through Carrey’s unsettling invitation, listeners are transported from the repetitive reality of life in the pandemic to the funky, fast-paced era of the 1980s. Carrey’s unsettling narration in between songs has caused a stir throughout Tesfaye’s audience. For example, in the “Phantom Regret by Jim,” he recites an original poem: “You’re tuned to Dawn FM/The middle of nowhere on your dial/So sit back and unpack/You may be here a while.” The eerie undertones that Carrey’s voice gives off in his prevalent monologues throughout the album throw the listener off, creating an offbeat, abnormal mood. Some critics say that although Carrey’s voice is a distinct addition to the album, the actual meaning to his words are more monotonous than meaningful. But, Carrey’s words add a personal touch that would leave “Dawn FM” lacking if removed.

The album’s hit single “Take My Breath” has been met with widespread praise as it debuted number six on the US Billboard Hot 100. The song is heavily influenced by 80’s beats and synthesizers, taking listeners back in time. In fact, Jon Parales of the New York Times compares the song’s disco thump, electric piano, and call-and-response vocals to the Bee Gees. The single is also reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s vocals. Tesfaye intentionally includes elements of various 80’s artists to pull the listener back in time.

“Out of Time,” “Here We Go…Again?” and “Less Than Zero” are considerably the most profound songs in the entire album. “Out of Time,” one of the more slow-paced songs of the album and a well-known fan favorite, impresses with its beautiful vocal harmonizations. But, in general, it wouldn’t be incorrect to state that each song is richly infused with unique instrumentals that truly enhance the album as a whole.

While some may view “Dawn FM” as a disappointment in comparison to The Weeknd’s previous album, Tesfaye’s newest album is truly his most ambitious one yet. He has brought a new dimension to the music he writes, and has taken risks to make this original conceptual album. Hopefully, we will see more of Tesfaye’s attempts to diversify in his music in the near future.