First things first, but I really need to apologize for being irritating as fuck on the Dawn FM RYM comment section during the listening party, but hey, two people recognized that I was the same ubiquitous user from AOTY, and for some reason that made me feel wanted!
Abel Tesfaye shows us yet again why he's the biggest artist on planet earth, for the fourth time in a row. And he hasn't put out anything that I didn't find remotely compelling at the very least.
Honestly speaking, "dawn FM" really delivers on all the expectations I had for it. After Hours definitely felt like a career-defining project, but this one does the direct opposite of what that record set out to do.
Half of it feels like a celebration of everything The Weeknd has been working on since 2016, and while it doesn't necessarily bring out the best side of him, it still remains a very lighthearted and conceptually watertight album. I'd say that it's rather likely that this album would've found more acclaim if it came out prior to After Hours, but it still punches its weight as a record, and even has some bold artistic expression in the mix
All I could really call it is plain satisfying. There are some songs on here that are absolutely cutting-edge and filled to the brim with music I'd dub "synth porn", and there are also a few other tracks that unfortunately lean towards the side of apparent mediocrity. Let me get the second part of that sentence out of the way, the track Best Friends, something that was initially referred to as an interlude, is arguably one of my least favorite Weeknd songs of all time. It sounds like a chopped-up version of One Right Now on the low, and that's nothing to brag about because I found the original pretty lackluster as well.
On the other hand, the intro and outro tracks on here feature spoken-word passages from Jim Carrey of "The Truman Show" fame, who we're all pretty familiar with, handling the honors. He does really well on the opener "Dawn FM", which then ends with a little radio jingle sung by Abel himself. It serves as a good entry point into the sonic world of "Dawn FM", and I can see why it's given the mantle of being both the title track and the opener. Not to mention the fact that it opens up with a mellow birdsong, which is something I didn't expect to hear on here.
This album definitely doesn't feel as significant as any of his previous records, but that doesn't seem like what it was aiming for. One of my favorite songs on here is the pretty jangly sounding jam that is "Less Than Zero". This track's placed on the other end of this LP, and while It sounds like a bunch of stuff I've heard before, it's still absolutely lovely to see Abel make a song in this vein.
It truly resonates with me personally and sends me on a trip down memory lane. Well, this might hint at a potential stylistic change he could make down the line with his next record, which sadly might not be under the stage name of The Weeknd, if The Guardian's review is anything to go by. This almost reminds me of some stuff by La Roux, but with all the dials set to the max.
For some reason, half of the production album sounds like something a female artist or an all-female band would typically work on. That's a pretty odd analogy, but it leans towards dance-pop and electropop which are quite stereotypically woman-dominated genres. Never mind, that's something I really didn't need to mention.
Well now that we're on that topic, one of my favorite characteristics of The Weeknd's early material was how diverse the vocal inflections were at points, even crossing over to the androgynous territory at times. A lot of that is back on this record, and so are the flawless transitions.
One of my major gripes with After Hours was with how his voice never took an alternate guise for once, but I'm glad to admit that he's worked on that one appalling flaw on dawn FM. He even dons this "pseudo-British" accent on Sacrifice and Gasoline, and I'm admittedly a fan of it! He sounds surprisingly balanced on these joints vocally, never once tapping into his highest vocal register outside a few instances in particular
The last time I heard a drum-based transition between tracks on a Weeknd record was between the tracks Adaptation and Love In The Sky off my favorite Weeknd album to date, "Kiss Land". And to hear something remotely similar to that placed between How Do I Make You Love Me and Take My Breath was simply mind-blowing! Plus there are little breathing sound effects that lead into Take My Breath, which is a very neat addition to the already brilliant transition.
I don't know if this applies to everyone, but on Take My Breath's instrumental bridge, you can listen to the synths in two ways, i.e: the synth sounds offbeat one way or the synth sounds in line with the snare, depending on which part you focus on. This kinda fucked with my head. And then I hear a mention of "Sacrifice" on its lyrical body, how neat is that!
Not to mention that the song snippet that was first teased at the end of Take My Breath's music video, Gasoline, is placed right after Take My Breath on the tracklist. This extended version of Take My Breath is actually a massive pep shot in the arm for the otherwise decent single, and in the mix of "dawn FM", this record actually works like a charm, and it invokes a certain feeling that was missing from the single version when utilized in this fashion.
Synth maestro and vaporwave forefather Daniel Lopatin, more commonly referred to as "Oneohtrix Point Never", whose stage name and previous studio album likely served as the two core inspirations for everything from the title to the concept of "dawn FM" handles almost 90 percent of the production on here along with The Weeknd himself. I'm guessing Abel had more of a hand in the production this time around than he usually does. Daniel Lopatin even posted a picture of Abel in the studio behind a keyboard on his social handle, which might hint at a greater amount of involvement on the production side of things from his behalf than I would've expected earlier.
Magic Oneohtrix Point Never, Lopatin's 2020 masterclass, had Abel handling executive production while also lending his voice to one of the record's lead singles, No Nightmares (a track that paired him up with another one of my favorite pop acts, Caroline Polachek)
OPN is going to be massive in the pop sphere from now on out, or he's going to anchor all of Abel's upcoming music. They're such an interesting duo, and these two self-made men are an inspiration!
One thing in particular about The Weeknd I've always adored is his taste in music. I've mentioned the sampling on Trilogy and Kiss Land a countless amount of times before, as late as yesterday, but that's because they were absolutely top-notch. Speaking of that, this record barely has any oblique sampling outside the Tomoko Aran sample on Out Of Time and the Alicia Myers sample on Sacrifice. The latter almost turns Out Of Time into the first city-pop song Abel has made, albeit on the low.
I'm forever grateful to The Weeknd for the impact he's had on my taste in music, not to mention that I landed on this site in the first place to rate the entirety of his catalogue, and that I discovered some of my favorite artists/bands like Kanye West, The Police, Chromatics, and Kero Kero Bonito through the medium of his Instagram "shoutouts" and featured performances over the last few years.
Forget all of that, we kind of share the same taste, I've even seen him shout out a Loona video once! His music has always been influential to my work as well, even though I haven't really put any of it out yet. Isn't it obvious that I'm into synths! Let's get back on track for once. The first five tracks on here are pretty rock-solid. It's the usual "The Weeknd affair", with nocturnal, hard-hitting songs that don't skimp on their pop sensibilities but manage to pull all of that off with a slight tint of the progressive electronic genre. I admittedly enjoy the entirety of this portion of the album and I think it features some of his best work to date.
It almost sounds like he's channeling his inner Micheal Jackson again after a hiatus of about 6-7 years from the last time he made his last effort at mirroring his biggest influence. Following this run of absolute perfection, tracks 6-8 serve a completely different purpose. They almost sound like neo-soul tracks of sorts, plus Quincy Jones and Tyler The Creator make very brief cameos in the mix of this seamless sound change. Honestly, the first 8 tracks on "dawn FM" are put-together in such a clinical and effective manner that they might as well be better than anything he's put out to date.
Quincy Jones, the legendary record producer, lends his production and his voice for a little interlude of sorts, and he tells a tale of his childhood. I admit that it was quite inspiring to hear about how he managed to go from humble beginnings to producing one of the most iconic pop records of all time, Micheal Jackson's pop-culture staple, Thriller.
The Weeknd has mentioned that most of the guest appearances on this record are artists that formed a crucial part of his own childhood, including Lil Wayne, Quincy himself, and of course Jim Carrey. Track 7, Out Of Time fits like a glove between Quincy's interlude and "Here We Go... Again", which makes this three-track run feel like its own segment, and every track segues into the other with much finesse.
But I'd be lying if I said things didn't fall apart on the low post this picture-perfect first half. Best Friends is arguably one of his worst tracks to date, and it doesn't even perform it's basic functions as an interlude. Repeat After Me off After Hours served the same purpose but it sounded way more refined in tone, because Kevin Parker's production stole the show on that track. This one just sounds cheap and tacky compared to the grandiosity of the album anchor "Here We Go... Again", that preceded it.
Oh lord, did I forget to mention "Here We Go... Again"? Tyler, The Creator does his thing on the production front despite having a very underwhelming feature verse. But The Weeknd absolutely steals the show on here, this minimalist yet decadent song serves as a platform to celebrate everything he's achieved so far during his illustrious career, and it might be one of my favorite songs of his to date. The vocal performance is picture-perfect, and I'm not making an overstatement by analogizing his vocal performance to that of an angel. How does he manage to unabashedly flaunt his wealth while still sounding endearing enough to be able to sell this thing as an art-pop song
Well, following that up with one of your worst songs, and transitioning into it in a very unsatisfying manner kind of turns the album upon its back with sudden effect, and the previously teased "Is There Someone Else' does it no favors either. This song is pretty underwhelming, but at least it's an arm and leg better than the electropop tinged mess that was "Best Friends".
Well not everything's grim on this portion of the album. Here you come across yet ANOTHER one of The Weeknd's most beautiful songs to date, a 2-minute long interlude titled "Starry Eyes", that's lush and emotive as FUCK, even if the lyrics are your typical Weeknd affair. It almost sounds like something off SOPHIE's "Oil Of Every Pearl's Un-insides", which also happens to be one of my favorite albums of all time.
Starry Eyes' immense beauty carries into a "song" that sounds more like a Oneohtrix Point Never helmed improvisation rather than a Weeknd song. But imagine an entire album by Abel without a taint of drum programming, that would be absolutely transcendent, even if it might potentially piss some people on here off.
It's this dense, sound collage-esque song dubbed "Every Angel Is Terrifying" that is quite in line with the core concept of this album, which revolves around a purgatorial radio station that guides souls through the afterlife.
I'm surprised this even made it on to the final cut of "dawn FM" because this is one of the most unsettlingly artistic things he's done since he legit thew an intermission of a robotic voice chanting lyrics from "Edge Of Seventeen" by Stevie Nicks translated to french on the end of "Pretty" (people really don't give this man enough credit for his artistic vision)
And for some reason, this marks the fourth time one of the semi-drumless tracks on "dawn FM" has captured my attention more than the fully-formed pop songs on here. Don't Break My Heart features some Metro Boomin type hi-hats that have been missing across the body of the album, and this song is surprisingly better than I thought it would be when I first heard a portion of it. It isn't one of my favorite songs on "dawn FM" but it clicks with me more than the next song and the other two underwhelming records on "dawn FM"
I Heard You're Married feels like a rehash of a countless amount of commonly used song ideas and it really feels like something any pop artist out there could've made. It isn't bad at all though, and it doesn't get on my nerves at all, but it feels quite mediocre, somewhat like one of the lower order cuts on his 2016 full-length Starboy.
Lil Wayne could've stayed off this album, but he doesn't ruin the song at all. I don't think it was a good idea to throw him on something that sounds like a synthpop song, but I can't complain after something's out and about, can I?
I already mentioned how much adoration I hold for Less Than Zero. It's such a refreshing song with a special take on this variant of music, so much so that I hold it above a lot of songs with similar soundscapes. And it makes me optimistic towards the fact that The Weeknd will put a conscious effort towards doing something unique with his next record, even though this one is a little cliche/undercooked at parts.
But at the end of the day, the way this record wraps up bolsters it considerably. Despite sounding like a slog at points, it holds its own and is infinitely more entertaining than most of the music out there, even if it isn't his best work. And to be this late into your career and forever evolving is something that isn't typically synonymous with pop stars, but I think The Weeknd is aging pretty gracefully and is on an upward trajectory musically and conceptually. I can't wait for the short film for this album, as the snippets looked extra promising.
Enough meandering off from the topic, let me talk about the final track off of "dawn FM", Phantom Regret By Jim. Jim Carrey obviously handles the narration once again, and his narration on here invokes the same feelings T.I did on Travis Scott's early career magnum opus (that also featured The Weeknd on it), Rodeo. This track is pretty much a solo effort and Jim actually keeps me interested with his faux poetry for the most part. The brooding synths give you the false connotation that the entirety of the album was this eerie and cathartic or so, but that obviously wasn't the case.
This track really made me rethink the way I initially perceived the record. Even though a few individual tracks drop the ball more so than I wished they would, this thing is pretty rock solid as an experience, and it serves as a fitting beginning to the musical year of 2022. It's definitely going to undercut its predecessor in terms of importance, as After Hours is now an iconic staple of modern pop culture, but it holds its own in a head-to-head comparison. Plus. it works as a more lighthearted sister album to After Hours, and hence, I think I'm going to give this album the same score I gave After Hours. I would be nitpicking if I let the flaws get in my way.
There are no Blinding Lights' on here, nor is something in the vein of "Heartless" on here, and there's definitely nothing that remotely sounds like "Faith" on here, but then again, does After Hours have "Sacrifice", "Here We Go... Again" and "Less Than Zero" on it? I don't think so, and I see how this is a step in the right direction for The Weeknd as an artist and as a commercial phenom. He's definitely the most important figure in the commercial pop music scene at the moment, and he deserves all the acclaim he's getting across the board because he's using his platform to create brilliant audiovisual experiences.
I've been wanting to mention this for a few weeks at this point but seeing late AOTY user Zachthesnack/Zach's review of Take My Breath and the extended version of it, two of his final reviews on this site before his unfortunate passing last year filled me with a lot of dread.
While I never really knew him outside one extremely brief interaction, I can tell he was universally loved by everyone on this site and his Instagram page showed his immense talents that the world unfortunately misses out on today. He was one of the only other relatively large pages on this site that held a lot of adoration for The Weeknd's work, and The Morning was apparently one of his favorite songs of all time.
I really wish he got the chance to listen to this album because I'm pretty sure he would've loved it. May his soul rest in peace.
The same goes for people like the founder of the XO Podcast (One of The Weeknd's earliest fans who After Hours was dedicated to) and Abel's former vocal coach who passed away very recently, and anyone else who unfortunately lost their lives over the course of the last few years. Some of us have lost people that we held close to our hearts and I hope everyone that has can find the courage to bear with their respective losses, whether they lost someone that was close to them, or something else they lived for in the past.
Since this is my first review of 2022, I'd like to raise a toast directed towards everyone reading my review, and the resilience we showcased to make it through the year while braving it all with smiles on our faces. I've lost my way a lot since the beginning of the pandemic and even though the world is slowly healing, there's still a little something that the world feels devoid of, or maybe it has to do with my own health and well-being.
I'm not holding out too well either, and I'm slowly losing everything I've ever had a flair for as well. All my reviews feel more disjointed now and I had to proofread this one about 5 odd times just so I don't come off as a paltry reviewer, after all, I'm only making these once in a blue moon. I don't think it's that serious though, after all, I've always come off like some annoying, ubiquitous "reviewer" that attempts to integrate "comedy" in my reviews all the time and I always do a half-assed job at it, plus I've been a piece of work as a person, but I'm trying my best, and I hope I can keep my head high for at least a short while.
I hope all of you are doing well!
There are several ways I could theorize this album's conceptuality and very existence, but I'm guessing this serves the purpose of being the centerpiece on his second trilogy, which will be rolled out in the near future, and that record has rumored to have been christened "Afterlife" as of now.
Well, if the subtle hints of being "stuck in limbo" and in the "middle of nowhere" on Phantom Regret are anything to go by, we're in for yet another high-octane record in this vein. This record will likely serve its purpose as Thursday of the compilation, anchoring both of the polar opposite sides together with much finesse.
Not to forget that "Every Angel Is Terrifying" further elaborates on this theory. This particular track sounds like it's an audio commercial for his next record, even though I still think it's far away from being released. I don't think I mentioned the fact that this song performs this function on the main body of my review. Speaking of Every Angel Is Terrifying, the phone number on there belongs to a company named MCI, which is also an abbreviation for Mild Cognitive Impairment, which loosely correlates to the themes of aging.
The release of that album would be a pretty solid stage to drop The Weeknd moniker for once and move on to his next big endeavor, but whatever it may be, the one thing that you can be certain about is that I'll be waiting patiently for its arrival. I've been fully invested in The Weeknd storyline since 2014, and that streak isn't coming to an end anytime soon.
That's why it's a bit lowkey in nature, just like Thursday was, and it's supposed to be a testament of him being capable of loosely recreating the success of the record that preceded its release, without stepping outside his comfort zone.
Edit (11 January 2021)
My theory has been proven right, so I'm feeling lucky to make another prediction: the next album will be 10 tracks long, in order to complete the 40 song format.
dawn FM isn't very consistent as an album but it really has his strongest set of conceptual ideas to date. Then again, in my personal discretion, BBTM drops into slightly unsatisfying balladry halfway through. Starboy has a lot of filler and undercooked songs that could've been worked on a little more. Not to mention that it plays like a playlist and lacks proper cohesion of any form. My Dear Melancholy has some filler sandwiched between two of his best songs, Privilege and Call Out My Name
The Weeknd isn't someone who makes EXTREMELY consistent albums on the usual, then again, if all his stuff was awfully consistent then it would probably translate into a very visible lack of effort, and it'd probably sound all-vanilla.
I don't even think the mixtapes were as consistent as they were given credit for, and outside Thursday, the mixtapes lack the conceptual mastery Abel has put into everything else since. Don't get me wrong, I love Trilogy as much as the next person here, but the amount of people that nag him to go back to the sound he crafted at the lowest point of his life is distressing. Dawn FM is the most distant he's been from Trilogy. Here We Go Again and Less Than Zero sound like songs you'd never expect The Weeknd to make prior to 2013. This isn't a bad thing at ALL.
Face it, they wouldn't be complaining if he made a rehash of Trilogy, but when he makes an album with similar coding to After Hours they say claim it's a washed version of After Hours sans the quality of the original. Some people are corny as fuck for comparing everything he put out post-Trilogy to the mixtapes. Not to mention that Dawn FM had the least impact on me among any of his albums on it's much-awaited arrival but I've already grown very close to it over the course of the last two days!
It reminds me of the whole "I miss the old Kanye" thing, just shut up for once and ditch the ship if you don't like his modern work, instead of picking on people that do (trust me, I've seen people that act like their opinions are objective and final), and this is coming from someone who believes Kiss Land is his best album and the one album he'll never top. I think I shouldn't be picking on people for enjoying Starboy more than Kiss Land even though I think the latter is an arm and leg better than Starboy.
The Dawn is surprisingly nihilistic from the get-go. While it's mostly masked as a pop album, and just as the case is with every other Weeknd album, a few songs definitely meander away from the project’s core concept, but at its core, Dawn FM is actually pretty grim and dark. Less Than Zero is a reference to both the Bret Easton Ellis novel, which mirrors Abel's life on the low. Gasoline has him obliquely state his nihilistic ideology, and he hopes he can pass away at the high point of his life. A lot of the record illustrates an abusive relationship of sorts, or one that has no barriers and takes too many risks along its course. Take My Breath's music video and the track "Don't Break My Heart" refer to dying in a club. Out Of Time is about dying as well, and Phantom Regret closes out the album in a way that only complements the themes of death and purgatory.
So in it's essence, Dawn FM isn't as bright or uplifting as what the eye meets might catch you unaware with. It's pretty grim.
|1||Dawn FM / 94|
|2||Gasoline / 94|
|3||How Do I Make You Love Me? / 93|
|4||Take My Breath / 93|
|5||Sacrifice / 95|
|6||A Tale By Quincy / 91|
|7||Out of Time / 90|
|8||Here We Go… Again / 96|
|9||Best Friends / 74|
|10||Is There Someone Else? / 84|
|11||Starry Eyes / 97|
|12||Every Angel is Terrifying / 95|
|13||Don’t Break My Heart / 86|
|14||I Heard You’re Married / 78|
|15||Less Than Zero / 97|
|16||Phantom Regret by Jim / 96|