The Weeknd lets us escape in ‘Dawn FM’

The 80’s synth album explores hope, transition, and the future

The Weeknd's new album has a sonic, interstellar tone.
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The cover of The Weeknd’s newly released album, Dawn FM, provides the first hint about the themes within. The singer's appearance resembles how most of us feel after going on three years of a global pandemic—tired and aged. 

With Dawn FM, The Weeknd provides listeners with a fantastical escape from this pandemic purgatory we find ourselves in.

The first track—and the album’s title track—begins with the voice of actor Jim Carrey inviting the listener to leave their reality behind. Carrey narrates, “You are now listening to 103.5 Dawn FM / You've been in the dark for way too long / It's time to walk into the light / And accept your fate with open arms.”

With his invitation, listeners are transported from the monotonous reality of life amidst COVID-19 to 80’s era upbeat synth-pop sounds and funky, fast-paced beats. The music and tone of the song is most reminiscent of the star’s hit track “Blinding Lights” from his previous record, After Hours

Throughout the album, Carrey voices the role of a radio DJ, and he provides somewhat of a narrative throughout the album's segments and phases. 

This element of the album is incredibly captivating and unique. Carrey does an excellent job of creating an eerie, almost dystopic feeling throughout the listening experience. His narration provides a sense of division within the album, which helps reinforce the theme of transition. 

In the first half of Dawn FM, fans are treated to the fast-paced and euphoric “How Do I Make You Love Me?” which features a healthy dose of The Weeknd’s trademark upbeat synth sound and focuses on the insatiable feeling that arises when you want someone who seems uninterested.

The energy of the album’s first half carries into “Sacrifice,” a track that is a confession about sacrificing love for “more of the night.” The track is backed by a funky electronic beat, staying true to the retro theme. 

The album then transitions towards a calmer and more pensive feel with “Is There Someone Else?” and “Starry Eyes.” Both songs are reminiscent of the artists’ earlier, melancholic tracks, though they still maintain the lighter sound of The Weeknd’s more recent work. 

The former track details the fear one feels wondering if their significant other is seeing other people, while the latter is an expression of the singer’s desire to “be there” for a woman with “a shattered soul.”

In the Apple Music album description for Dawn FM, it’s revealed The Weeknd scrapped the comparatively somber original material for this album at the beginning of the pandemic when he felt he was “wallowing in the depression he was feeling at the time.” 

Dawn FM is the glorious product of two years of rumination on The Weeknd’s feelings surrounding the pandemic. The result is a piece of work that exudes hope rather than the melancholia originally envisioned by The Weeknd, focusing on ideas of transition and the future—hence the singer’s aged appearance. 

In comparison to some of his earlier work, The Weeknd’s new record departs from My Dear Melancholy and Beauty Behind the Madness, which focused on sex, nightlife, and late-night rendezvous. The prior albums were backed by a more seductive R&B sound in comparison to Dawn FM’s sonic, interstellar tone.

The Weeknd’s recent exploration of the 80’s synth sound and less grungy, heartbroken subject matter is an exciting and revitalizing turn for the artist and his fans as we near what will hopefully be the end of our purgatory. 

I for one see myself returning to tune in to Dawn FM for a little escapism and a reminder to hold out hope during these troubling times.

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