Abel Tesfaye, better known by his stage name “The Weeknd”, is a singer and producer who has consistently performed well through every era. Since 2011, Tesfaye has genuinely been able to pull off creating a new character through every record, and besides the music, it seems like he lives through this character. The trilogy is most likely considered to be one character in itself through 3 mixtapes, but that’s not significant. Through the dark path of Kiss Land, to the transition into pop music through Beauty Behind The Madness, to the club perspective of Starboy, to the abrupt but meaningful My Dear Melancholy, to the mind-bending After Hours, we finally make our way to Dawn FM which seems to be Chapter 2 of the modern day trilogy.
Being the only single from this new record, “Take My Breath” didn’t underperform. I was excited to hear more of this type of material, because it seemed to have hints of Starboy’s spirit while balancing itself with the quality of After Hours. I had no doubt that the author would be able to provide a tremendously catchy chorus that would last me a couple months before the release of the new project. The extended version is surprisingly superior, especially because of the transition on the record. It’s not a flaw, but this wasn’t the first time Tesfaye has made a track like this. I immediately heard the similarities between his hit 2016 track “I Feel It Coming.” Even so, this track is vastly amusing.
“Dawn FM” presents a more upbeat take compared to its predecessor “After Hours”. The radio station 103.5 Dawn FM is a very interesting concept. Jim Carrey was the perfect choice for a host, a humble human being who has solidified himself as a top tier actor. The Quincy Jones interlude is also a nice add-on to the record. The track lasts almost 100 seconds, but it creates a moment of tranquility between two incredible tracks. The features are worth mentioning briefly, because there’s only two on the sixteen track record. Tyler, The Creator is almost always consistently delivering on features, but sadly his verse didn’t seem to fit the song. The verse wasn’t bad, but I personally would have prefered to hear Tesfaye by himself on this cut. As for Lil Wayne, I was beyond satisfied with his delivery. Once again, it was somewhat unfitting, but Wayne’s confidence and flair stands out on his performance. Nonetheless, everyone who participated on this record did an outstanding job.
To begin the record, Gasoline left me a bit worrisome at first. The vocal performances on the verses were out of the ordinary for the author, but over time, this track became one of my favorites. The vibrance of the chorus made me recognize the cohesion from Take My Breath. Once the bridge came around, I could tell that Tesfaye was in his comfort zone, and I had no worries about the tracks that would follow.
The strongest part of this album is without a doubt the transitions. The entire record flows as if it was a radio station, so there isn’t a single moment of silence. Sure, not everyone will enjoy every track, but this record doesn’t lack content and delivery whatsoever. How Do I Make You Love Me is a perfect example of this. It’s straightforward, but for some reason it has a charm that makes it powerful. The end of the track transitions into Take My Breath with a constant breathing sound, and it sounds incredible. That’s all that really needs to be said about the track. It’s one of those cuts that you need to listen for yourself in order to understand.
Following Take My Breath is the hard-hitting Sacrifice. This is one of the author’s most vibrant cuts in years. The whole idea of the music video has to do with being a human sacrifice, and for some reason in this case he gets taken by a cult, but the track itself comes back to the centralized theme of death.
Out Of Time deserves its own paragraph, and to be honest, it deserves its own book, movie, and anything along those lines. There’s so much to unpack about this song. For starters, this is one of the best cuts Tesfaye has ever made. The sample is beyond gorgeous, coming from the 1983 track “Midnight Pretenders” by Tomoko Aran, which is very interesting to hear as it’s such a different track. The city pop ballad focuses on relationships and the negative impacts that come with them, but that’s nothing new for The Weeknd. He’s truly mastered his sound, and if the topics aren’t changing, it doesn’t matter as long as the music sounds good.
After the first seven or eight tracks, the general consensus I’ve taken is that the album starts to take a downfall. I have a two-sided opinion about this. I do believe that the first half of the record is spectacular, and the second half doesn’t keep the momentum going very well, but what saves the album from failing is the strong ending. Before moving on, I would love to mention the track “Is There Someone Else?”. It’s definitely a standout for the record with its club sound that allows for the production to sound transcendental and fun at the same time, which is something I haven’t seen most artists pull off.
When it comes to the closing tracks, I have never had mixed opinions. Many people seemed to dislike “I Heard You’re Married” with guest Lil Wayne due to his inadequate performance, but I found the feature to be one of the highlights of the record as a whole. Wayne compliments Tesfaye’s sound very well despite how different they are, and I love when artists from different genres work well as a team.
Closing the album out with the final genuine track(not counting the interlude) is “Less Than Zero.” No matter whatever or wherever this track was made, it seems like a right place at the right time kind of song. After a rollercoaster of dark lyricism and pop/r&b cuts, Tesfaye finished the puzzle, and added the track that gave the album a punch before the record would be put to an end. Less Than Zero is exactly what Dawn FM needed in order to be great. A romantic yet depressing cut lyric wise that became an uplifting mastery of a track. Obviously there’s countless uplifting tracks out there, but this song seems like a once in a lifetime occurrence, and for that reason alone is why this is one of Tesfaye’s best songs to date.
Dawn FM is beautiful. I’m not going to compare it to past records, because The Weeknd is so consistent that my opinion changes on his projects almost daily. One day Dawn FM will be my favorite record of his, the next day it’ll barely be top 3. Either way, this album is genuinely fantastic, and I don’t have any worries about what he decides to do in the future. It’s Abel Tesfaye’s world, and we’re just living in it.