One of pop music’s largest artists, The Weeknd, released his 5th studio album after a two year hiatus. Coming off of the massive commercial success of After Hours, the pressure for a strong Weeknd record felt abnormally high, especially since “Blinding Lights” broke the Billboard record for the longest charting song. His newest iteration “Dawn FM” takes the danceability of After Hours and turns it into an intimate experience. Instead of shimmering pop bass lines and nihilistic lyricism, The Weeknd turns to euphoric disco and 80’s R&B, with consistently imposing lyrics about death, drug use, vice’s, destruction, and love. He melds new wave chart music with a futuristic but familiar funk wave sound.
The first third of the record offers a standard, synth-heavy tone with tracks like “How Do I Make You Love Me?” and “Take My Breath,” donning a vast amount of liveliness. The fifth song titled “Sacrifice” boasts brilliantly scratchy guitar over a dreamy chord progression, making a solid argument for the strongest song on the record. He talks about making sacrifices for those you love and how his selfishness has caused him to second guess his romantic decisions. The tone of the album changes drastically after an eerie monologue by famous music producer Quincy Jones, where he tells the story of a harrowing upbringing and its long-lasting effects. The song is called “A Tale By Quincy,” and from this point on the feel of the record becomes more and more desperate.
“Here We Go…” features Tyler the Creator on the track about pain and romantic relationships, linking passion with an inevitable pain. The second interlude takes a satirical take on inaccurate portrayal in the media, comparing biblical angels to westernised angels, asserting that society has altered their image in the pursuit of a more typical definition of beauty. The song looks specifically at angels and their poor interpretations in the modern world, but the message carries out much farther than simply one analogy, branching into beauty standards, the advertisement of sex, and the corruption of endorsed media. “Every Angel Is Terrifying” melds a thought provoking experience with a sarcastic parody.
He opens with a Lil Wayne feature to kick off the last four songs of the album, in this title about guilt and dishonesty. “I Heard You’re Married” goes through the thought process of a homewrecker, and how the growing onset of guilt begins to overpower the excitement of a dishonest relationship. The song portrays messages of growth, culpability, accountability, and selflessness.
The final song on the record is called “Phantom Regret by Jim,” a short monologue narrated by The Weeknd’s real life next-door-neighbour, Jim Carey. “Phantom Regret” is one of the most thought provoking songs on the record, talking about self reflection over the course of a lifetime. The song puts the listener in a place of questioning, directly addressing them as an audience. It asks questions about reflection, such as when the last time was that the listener let their soul analyse their decisions. The track essentially forces the reader to self-reflect on their actions, as Carey directly questions, “Were you ever in tune with the song life was humming?”. The final track makes a great closing statement as it gives the listener a reason to reflect on the rest of the record.
Dawn FM is a classic pop album with enraptured synth, strong production, and excellent poetic prowess. The album takes on grand messages of reflection, self-destruction, fear, death, and life, as it culminates into a metaphorical masterpiece.