Following an unexpected announcement made on Jan. 3, singer Abel Tesfaye, better known as The Weeknd, released his fifth studio album, “Dawn FM” on Jan. 7.
Narrated by actor Jim Carrey who takes on the persona of a radio DJ, “Dawn FM” pays homage to the sounds of the ‘80s, marrying disco and classic R&B. Tyler, the Creator, Lil Wayne and Motown legend Quincy Jones are also featured on the album.
While several genres and artistic influences such as Michael Jackson, Depeche Mode and Prince are present within the music, the album maintains a cohesive sound. Though the synthesized sound might be overwhelming to new listeners unfamiliar with The Weeknd’s developing discography, the emotional narrative throughout “Dawn FM” is never lost. The tracks are arranged perfectly, a testament to the “painless transition” Carrey mysteriously alludes to in the title track at the top of the album.
In an interview with Billboard in August 2021, the Canadian singer-songwriter said that he wrote “Dawn FM” during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The feelings of uncertainty and tension that The Weeknd and most people around the world have felt in attempts to return to normalcy inspired him to curate a soundtrack you might imagine hearing in the twilight zone.
“Picture the album being like the listener is dead,” the artist said. “And they’re stuck in this purgatory state, which I always imagined would be like being stuck in traffic waiting to reach the light at the end of the tunnel. And while you’re stuck in traffic, they got a radio station playing in the car, with a radio host guiding you to the light and helping you transition to the other side.”
“Dawn FM” is an older, more mature sibling to the singer’s “After Hours” album, released in March 2020. The evolution of The Weeknd’s work reflects what seems to be a growing comfortability and confidence in his unique sound and the experimental concepts they are based on. As the album title suggests, Dawn FM signals a new beginning for The Weeknd’s sound but brings us yet another chapter of The Weeknd’s artistic muse revolving around experimental synthpop, anecdotal-like love misadventures and cyberpunk aesthetics.
The release of “Dawn FM” shows a promising year for music in 2022 and reminds us all that even while we may be stuck in limbo, dawn is coming, and it is vital that we stay hopeful.