The Weeknd - "Dawn FM": Track-by-track album review

The cover of "Dawn FM" features an aged Abel, who still has the surgical alterations from the "After Hours" era (Image via Instagram/theweeknd)
The cover of "Dawn FM" features an aged Abel, who still has the surgical alterations from the "After Hours" era (Image via Instagram/theweeknd)

Abel Tesfaye a.k.a. The Weeknd released his fifth studio album, Dawn FM, on Thursday night, barely a week after announcing the release date.

With a bevy of electronic wizards taking up production duties, The Weeknd dives deeper into the conceptual madness he gave us a taste of on After Hours (2020).

And for the first time since hitting pop-star superstardom, Weeknd is taking a deep-dive into the melancholic hedonism that made him viral a decade ago. But he has matured (as his aged and surgically altered face on the album cover shows); the extremity isn't a tool of instability anymore.

Over 16 tracks, The Weeknd takes us into a purgatorial escape fantasy.


A track-by-track review of The Weeknd's "Dawn FM"

Dawn FM

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The album starts off with a titular intro that seems to pick right off where After Hours left, with building synths and Abel's echoey vocals singing about the end of the night and arrival of dawn, accentuated by sounds like bird-chirps.

The track ends with the radio DJ voiceover heard in the teaser, inviting us to listen to "103.5: Dawn FM." But whose voice is it? It's Jim Carrey, the narrator of the Dawn FM.


Gasoline

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The Weeknd goes back to his dark House Of Balloons roots on this track, singing about ODing and nihilism, accompanied by percussive synths. Even his vocals are synthesized for a solid minute and a half before the soft soprano vocals come in.

The song picks up tempo while atmospheric vocal inflections bounce around the background.


How Do I Make You Love Me

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This is a classic electro-dance track with Swedish House Mafia's print all over it. Abel's falsetto in the chorus will be a dancefloor magnet. The lyrics are staple Weeknd too, inviting and coaxing the subject of the song. But there is more humility in them this time around.


Take My Breath

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This track gave us the first taste of the new era back in August.

A disco-like thumping beat starts the track right away, with the Weeknd crooning "Take My Breath" at every drop, before layer upon layer descends upon us. The driving, kaliedoscopic beat over the bridge is reminiscent of the erstwhile French dance gods Daft Punk, who Able has collaborated with in the past.


Sacrifice

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The second single from the album sees Swedish House Mafia return for an all-out 80s sound a la Abel's last record.

The chorus is a bombastic, synthy, retro-reminiscent singalong vibe which will bring a tear to the eyes of Michael Jackson fans. The continuous looping groove of the synth beats is utterly infectious.


A Tale By Quincy

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This is a short interlude where jazz icon Quincy Jones reminisces about his mother's mental illness among other things in his early life which then impacted his later romances.

A haunting but funky R&B groove accompanies the story.


Out Of Time

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A relatively downtempo ballad-y track follows, where Abel's vocal chops are on full display over melancholic lyrics layered with synths and saxophone. But the groove gets to you by the time the chorus arrives. This tune harkens to a different kind of Michael Jackson.

Jim Carrey's radio DJ returns at the end, telling us that there's more music before we enter the light and "become free". Ah, so this album is a radio accompaniment to our purgatorial journey resembling a car stuck in gridlock.


Here We Go... Again

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The Weeknd gets back to his hedonistic self while addressing a lady who is having an affair with him. Tyler, The Creator drops by to elucidate the "life is free" epicurean philosophy in a laid-back verse. The production is lush and the lyrics deceptively deep, even with The Weeknd bragging about landing "quarter bills on an off year".


Best Friends

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Best Friends is another staple The Weeknd tune, this time speaking of a forbidden tryst between friends and the boundaries thereof. Not a lot to write home about, but it is a banger nonetheless.


Is There Someone Else / Starry Eyes / Every Angel Is Terrifying / Don't Break My Heart

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The next stretch of tracks has Abel aching with longing in the lyrics, while the atmospheric synths make it sound like he is proclaiming his wishes to his love in an empty Las Vegas club. The synths are a mix of Giorgio Morodor and Depeche Mode.

Every Angel Is Terrifying takes the beat up a notch into the disco stratosphere as The Weeknd rambles off about the afterlife in a radio ad pastiche.

The Giorgio beats go into overdrive on Don't Break My Heart, as The Weeknd synths his voice up and down. The lyrics reflect a much more emotionally vulnerable Abel than his usual darkly brooding self.


I Heard You're Married

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Calvin Harris steps into the production booth here, but the mood of the album remains the same. But The Weeknd's vocals are pop perfection in this, as he comes a bit out of the shadows to croon for a lady he doesn't want to share with anyone.

Lil Wayne's verse feels a bit uncharacteristically out of place, but The Weeknd brings it home with the bridge.


Less Than Zero

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A soaring chorus from The Weeknd kicks the tail end of this dance party up a notch again. Max Martin's slick, polished production carries this album dexterously past the point where the lyrics say things we have heard before.


Phantom Regret by Jim

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Jim Carrey delivers a moving outro to the album. The rhyming monologue sounds like an eloquent contemplation at life's end, which seems quite apt to the album's concept. The long, enchanting synth sounds only add to the feeling of being on the edge of something.

The Weeknd begins his vocal wails towards the end, as Jim says "may peace be with you."


Conclusion

While the album is a little light on features, with production maestros like Max Martin and Oneohtrix Point Never, The Weeknd crafts a new peak for himself, with tunes that groove and shimmer and lyrics that ache and soothe in turn, while being more insightful, and often regretful of his past excesses.

And he has never sounded better.

Note: The article reflects the writer's own views.

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