• Darby VanDeVeen

The Weeknd embarks on a purgatorial journey punctuated by easy-listening radio station, ‘Dawn FM’

“Retro synths with atmospheric vocals make the project feel futuristic and nostalgic simultaneously.”

2022 opens with a bang as Abel Tesfaye, known professionally as The Weeknd, releases his fifth studio album, Dawn FM. Written as a response to the past two years, Tesfaye leans into fantasy and escapism to deal with the turmoil. Producers like Max Martin and Oscar Holter bring a fresh sound combining old inspirations with new trends. Dawn FM is easy to listen to and sparks a new era for Tesfaye, an expansion on 2020's After Hours while paving the way for what’s to come.

103.5 Dawn FM exists to ease the listener into the afterlife disguised as an easy-listening radio station. Jim Carrey, the omnipresent DJ, declares on the opening track that he’ll be there to “hold your hand and guide you through this painless transition” as you “walk into the light.” Though, if purgatory has music as fun to listen to as Dawn FM, it might be worth it to sit through a little bit of L.A. gridlock. Retro synths with atmospheric vocals make the project feel futuristic and nostalgic simultaneously.

While the concept of imitating a radio station isn’t exactly groundbreaking — Vince Staples used this concept on his LP FM! — Tesfaye included liners to promote the station and even fictional advertisements to make the experience as immersive as possible. Much like a real radio station, there is a healthy mix of upbeat and slower songs that all fit together under a cohesive umbrella. Features from Tyler, the Creator and Lil Wayne only add to the overall feel of the album and serve to diversify the album as a whole, something that hasn’t always been Tesfaye’s strong suit.

Upbeat tracks “Gasoline” and the Swedish House Mafia assisted “How Do I Make You Love Me?” engulf the listener in this world before moving on to more tranquil tracks like “Starry Eyes” and “Here We Go…Again.” With each project, The Weeknd grows sonically as an artist, even while his subject matter stays relatively the same. Swirling speculation mixed with some sexually suggestive (and some more obvious) lines is his bread and butter. Dawn FM is one of Tesfaye’s most ambitious projects to date, and it seems that each of those risks has paid off for him.


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