Dawn FM Review

A thorough breakdown and critique of The Weeknd’s latest album.

Paul McLaughlin ‘23, Staff Writer

Friday, January 7th, Abel Tesfaye, better known by his stage name “The Weeknd,” released his highly anticipated fifth studio album, Dawn FM. Coming off an incredibly successful 2020, The Weeknd dropped the follow up to his critically acclaimed After Hours on extremely short notice. With minimal album rollout spanning just one week, he made up for a lack of anticipation with cinematic music videos, an interesting new persona in the form of himself as an old man, and a glorious auditory universe for listeners to indulge themselves in.

As confirmed by The Weeknd via twitter, Dawn FM continues the trilogy of the After Hours character through the concept of a radio station. His previous record essentially leaves The Weeknd’s character dead and broken, both spiritually and literally. The listener now finds themselves immersed in a sort of purgatory, strangely narrated like a retro radio station by feature Jim Carrey. After pushing a reckless and hollow lifestyle of vices, the character realizes he is wasting away. This album is a grim invitation to spend some time soul searching alongside Abel. The Weeknd reflects on his toxic traits, and how he has led himself astray on paths of addiction and tainted love. The listener sees Abel’s previously larger-than-life ego now in shambles, and how he is coming to understand the pain he brings upon himself. 

The feelings presented are refreshingly different from the rest of The Weeknd’s discography, where he explores pain, but never regret, belittlement, and insecurity like he does on Dawn FM. Abel makes use of a futuristic yet vintage, and almost spacey, sound for this record, emphasizing uses of synths, guitar, and especially his hypnotic vocal range. He is definitely a little more experimental with his voice on this album, most notably on my favorite song in the track list, “Gasoline.” Steering further from his old R&B roots, he has come to take on a more contemporary pop route that has turned him into the global superstar he is today.

Dawn FM, in my opinion, is The Weeknd’s best executed concept to date. While perhaps not his best music, Dawn is his most sonic and captivating atmosphere; the idea behind it is genius. While I have few criticisms of this record, one of them does happen to be the skits. The radio station theme is very enjoyable, but some of the interlude type things take away from the music and feel sort of pointless. Another negative I found was Tyler the Creator’s feature on “Here We go…Again”. Coming from an avid Tyler fan, I thought his verse, and the song as a whole, felt out of place on the album thematically. However, Lil Wayne’s feature on “I Heard You’re Married” was incredible, and made for one of my favorite tracks. This new Weeknd album is an immensely painful, while at the same time comforting, embrace from fate itself. Dawn FM is a creepy, cultish, ominous yet soothing party for sinners and romantics alike. I truly think this album is worthy of a couple listens, and I currently rate it an 8.5/10 with room to grow on me. I am extremely excited to see how this record ages, as well as where The Weeknd takes his work in the future.

My tracklist ranking:

  1. Gasoline
  2. Sacrifice
  3. Out of Time
  4. Less Than Zero
  5. I Heard You’re Married
  6. How Do I Make You Love Me?
  7. Dawn FM
  8. Don’t Break My Heart
  9. Take My Breath
  10. Is There Someone Else?
  11. Every Angel is Terrifying
  12. Best Friends
  13. Here We Go… Again
  14. Starry Eyes