Music Review: The Weeknd | Dawn FM
Abel Tesfaye aka The Weeknd’s newest and fifth studio LP Dawn FM was released on January 7, 2022. The album was hyped for with the release of a single in “Take My Breath” alongside a music video in early August of last year, along with teases on social media and another single collaboration with Swedish House Mafia (a producer on the album as well) on their track “Moth To A Flame” on October 22. The producers include familiar names such as Calvin Harris, Max Martin, Brian Kennedy, DaHeala, Abel himself, and even Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys among others, most of whom have worked with Abel before. Dawn FM takes the ‘80s new wave, synth-pop/dance-pop that was used extensively on his last more dreamy LP After Hours (2020) and that he had also dabbled with before on projects like his 3rd studio LP Starboy (2016) and ups it to eleven on this album. The album contains features from Tyler, the Creator, Lil Wayne, and a narration from Jim Carrey.
The eponymous “Dawn FM” title track sets up the listener with the feeling as if they are listening to more of a radio station (i.e. FM), that plays into more self-aware existential themes as if Abel himself knows that he’s being listened to but goes along with the ride anyway. 1980’s style synths are used heavily throughout the album and the title track is no different, but has a more spacey soulful feel, with Jim Carrey narrating at the end. “Gasoline” has Abel picking up where he left off in After Hours, indulging in his usual hedonism in face of sorrow to die but being saved from OD-ing himself completely by a woman. The high synth chords begin again before switching to a more minimal dance beat with Abel’s vocals switching from artificially deep to high to back his more confirmed R&B voice.
In “How Do I Make You Love Me,” Abel is seeking the love of this woman to become his lover, something that he admits is more out of the ordinary due to him normally being able to pick up most women very easily compared to her. The song’s composition has a more of a post-disco undertone combined with a more new-waveish dance-pop overtone that connects to the next song. The lead single, “Take My Breath” has Abel giving to his more hedonistic tendencies with the woman fulfillingly both of their erotic fanasties (in the music video she quite literally takes his breath away). The composition here has more of a psychedelic mix of new wave and dark wave, with some more overt disco and synth-pop. “Sacrifice” has Abel doubling down on his old ways with regret that he is neglecting his woman in the process but does not want to be held down. It has a more of a standard heavy dark synth-pop with a bit of a funkish undertone.
“A Tale By Quincy” has Quincy Jones delivering a spoken word track about his past with an institutionalized mother at an early age and wicked stepmother afterwards which he admits led to a subconscious fear of being too close to a woman (he had been married and divorced three times and has several children with five different women). The track itself has a more soft rock/adult contemporary jazzish tune. “Out of Time” tells of a relationship with a woman and how his neglect did eventually lead them to break apart when she finally left him for a different man; and now Abel wants her back in case the other man messes up, but he knows he’s too late. The track takes a city pop sample from Tomoko Aran and Tetsurō Oda’s Midnight Pretender’s, giving it it’s more city pop/R&B feel with another cameo from Jim Carrey who seems to be playing the disc jockey in this “radio” with talking about the listener being almost reborn by music itself.
“Here We Go… Again” takes more R&B vocalizations from Abel about his time with the woman before and how she ended up with someone lesser than him despite searching for someone better than Abel. The lyrics are more of falling back in love with a new woman, and him being dreamily head over heels in love with this woman. Tyler the Creator features on the track with him asking the person he loves to sign a prenup (just in case the relationship doesn’t work out) and that no one, not the government nor some outside religion can define what love is to them. The track’s music takes a more smooth soulful R&B approach combined with some synthy yacht rock. “Best Friends” has Abel turning a toxic relationship into a friend with benefits one instead but still feeling conflicted as he still loves this woman but doesn’t want to break her heart by getting into a relationship. The track has more of a minimal darkish new wave mixed with a trap beat and ending with an ominous repeating phrase like a broken record on a radio. “Is There Someone Else?” has Abel ironically questioning his lover’s loyalty as he tries to make himself a better partner for his woman and admits he is not really in any position to question her, but is still curious if the other man knows. This track has lighter synths that compliment the high pitched vocals of the song. Musically the track connects to “Starry Eyes” but with more of an urban/futuristic orchestral synths that are almost choir-like in some parts. The lyrics themselves have Abel wanting to comfort a broken and shattered woman who simply wants to push away all of those who get close, even through violent means of which Abel is willing to let happen to him.
“Every Angel Is Terrifying” is a more avant-garde spoken word track where Abel speaks about his existentialist fears on how if he cried out who would hear him? Even if the angels did hear him, he would be overwhelmed and terrified at his fate, and perhaps rightfully so as biblically accurate angels are radically different from what normally pops in our heads, and perhaps that’s what Abel thinks his afterlife may be. Speaking of afterlife, the next spoken word verses are of a radio/tv commercial of some sorts that markets the afterlife like a product and almost like a cheap recreational drug. The music switches between heavy futuristic synths at the beginning to more soulful chords when Abel talks about the angels, and then finally switches to a more commercialized synthpop tune to complement the commercial.
“Don’t Break My Heart” has Abel recovering from a break up and trying again to fall in love with hopes for a newer more devoted relationship with this mesmerizing woman but is afraid of what might happen to him if his heart is broken this one last time. The composition of this track takes more upon post-disco/dance-pop and minimal house music especially during the chorus. “I Heard You’re Married Girl” features Lil Wayne and Abel vocalizing about finding their lovers are actually married women with both artists giving ultimatums to them to either choose their husbands or them as they don’t want to be involved with married women. A more conventional synth-pop is used throughout the track with some occasional funkish undertones.
“Less Than Zero” is one of the highlights of the album, with Abel still having romantic feelings for a lover that he emotionally hid from and according to him, she thinks negatively about him but he can’t repress the feelings he still has for her and wants to rekindle a fire with her. The track’s composition is that of beautiful orchestral and upbeat synthwave mixed with a guitar to give it a more electro-pop rock feel that goes along perfectly with Abel’s more echoed vocals during the chorus, and the guitar becomes more evident near the end with Abel’s almost spoken word vocals. The final track “Phantom Regret” by Jim still has the tried and true minimal synths with Abel having echoed vocals over Jim’s monologue but ends peacefully with sounds of wildlife and nature. “Phantom Regret” by Jim has our narrator Jim Carrey giving a final poem to the listener on reflection about the journey they took to get to where they are now: what grudges did they have? Who did they hurt? Who or what did they remember? Jim reminds the listener of their regret and that despite all their pain, heaven, whatever it is to them, will still be there once they learn to let go of their regret and find inner peace within themselves. Furthermore, heaven isn’t always light or dark, heaven is what you make it to be.Dawn FM’s concept is a little hard to grasp with its more existential, self-reflecting themes than before mixed with a variety of ‘80’s electronic upbeat dance genres from disco to city pop that contrast with the more introspective and even romantic lyrics. It’s a very mature album for Abel as he clashes between staying the hedonistic self of his youth to the more older worn out Abel (as signified by the album cover) who simply wants peace and a stable relationship. Overall, the album has something for everyone with an overall consistent quality in songs and some incredible artistic highs.