For the longest time, The Weeknd has been teasing his sequel to 2020’s ‘After Hours’ with cryptic posts about how “the dawn is coming”.
And after several high-profile collaborations last year, we now finally have ‘Dawn FM’ to kick off this year in pop. The singer’s fifth album features cameos from an eclectic bunch of personalities like Jim Carrey, Tyler, The Creator, Quincy Jones and Lil Wayne. ‘Dawn FM’ comes with a premise intriguing enough: a ‘103.5 Dawn FM’ radio station programmed to accompany its listener through the crowded tunnel of purgatory.
If 2016’s ‘Starboy’ laid the groundwork for The Weeknd’s ability to dish out more than a few great pop hooks and ‘After Hours’ made the case he could juggle both his R&B/hip-hop and pop influences, ‘Dawn FM’ is the singer going all-in on his popstar persona.
‘How Do I Make You Love Me?’ offers up one of the album’s finest moments. Featuring production credits from behemoths Max Martin, Oneohtrix Point Never and Swedish House Mafia, the singer contemplates what it would take to gain the affection of a lover. And that transition to ‘Take My Breath’ at the end makes the radio station concept even more realistic.
It’s the slightly more understated songs here, however, that add new dimensions to The Weeknd’s discography. The slick ‘Out of Time’ makes those Michael Jackson comparisons inevitable. ‘Here We Go…Again’ is pure 80s The Weeknd like we rarely get to hear: a downtempo synthpop ballad with nods to ‘After Hours’ standout ‘Snowchild’ in the melody. ‘I Heard You’re Married’ gives a shoutout to Prince as Lil Wayne raps “When doves cry, we ain’t got enough tissue” (closing track ‘Phantom Regret by Jim’ further sees a mention of ‘Purple Rain’).
‘Less Than Zero’, already a fan favourite, is a euphoric slice of 80s pop rock much like Post Malone’s ‘Circles’ and is a sure shoo-in to be a single down the road. Add to that the song’s reference of the book/film of the same name, which dealt with themes of wealth, addiction and hedonism—all things central to the world of The Weeknd.
Sure, we’ve been getting 80s-influenced music from The Weeknd ever since 2015’s ‘Can’t Feel My Face’, but if anything, the longevity of ‘Blinding Lights’ and it becoming the singer’s most successful song is proof of just how successfully he commands the genre. While ‘Dawn FM’ does sink a little in the middle with some songs that could have been left on the cutting room floor, it ultimately still triumphs as a futuristic interpretation of 80s pop, differentiated with well-timed interjections from Carrey that make the listening experience all that more cerebral.
Now, what awaits us at the light in the distance? We can’t wait for what comes after the dawn.