“You have entered a New Dawn.”
On Jan. 7th, 2022 Abel Tesfaye, better known as “The Weeknd,” released his fifth studio album, “Dawn FM.” The highly anticipated album was teased most recently via Tesfaye’s Instagram just after the new year.
“Dawn FM” had little to no marketing because there was no traditional album rollout a global star like him would usually have. It debuted at #2 after first week sales, behind Gunna’s “DS4EVER” album. This was a major shock to the music industry as The Weeknd has been a global icon for the better half of a decade but still struggled to sell/stream over 200 thousand units of his new album. Nonetheless, the album was accompanied by a Twitch.tv/Amazonmusic release that let fans listen to the album the night of the release.
Tesafaye’s album is narrated by actor Jim Carrey, who helps the ‘80s vibe, pop radio album progress. The tracklist is 16 songs long with a runtime of just under an hour at 51:49. There are only two featured artists, Tyler, the Creator and Lil Wayne. Tesfaye released four music videos just after the album’s release and also an (Alternate World) version of the album that featured remixes, videos and Swedish House Mafia.
Upon first listen, I was immediately astounded by the vision and execution of this project. It actually sounds like you are on a journey with Tesfaye and Carrey through an 80’s radio channel. ‘Gasoline’ is unlike any other Weeknd song, and it took me a couple listens to get used to his sound. The Weeknd stayed true to his roots by keeping many of the track contents dark. But, it is such a pop and radio record that this album can resonate with all types of music listeners.
My favorite track has to be “Is There Someone Else?” as it reminded me of the ‘My Dear Melancholy’ era where the Weeknd is unsure of his position with his lover. You’re immediately pulled in with the sample used for the production of the song. Another smash hit on the album would be “I Heard You’re Married.” The track is produced by Tesfaye and Calvin Harris. This upbeat record was a strong highlight in the bottom half of the album. Lil Wayne’s feature on the track was surprising to listen to at first, but he provided solid verse from the rap legend.
Another highlight on the album is “Outta Time” where Tesfaye truly channels his inner Michael Jackson. This record sways and glides like The Weeknd’s smooth, melodic voice throughout.
The album is being criticized for being a bit slow and dragging on with the radio clammer. It is being called “Yawn FM” by many on Twitter. I could totally see why as it’s an album that doesn’t really seem to fit who Tesfaye is and he took a risk with a new sound.
The storytelling in the album is guided by Carrey, but I found that his spot took up a good chunk of the album. It ruined the pace in different ways. With some of the songs leading and transitioning into the next, I was displeased at always hearing Carrey come on at the end of a track and wanted to hit skip after a couple listens.
The “Best Rapper Alive” according to Complex, Tyler, The Creator gave a lackluster sentimental verse on “Here We Go… Again” and the duo seemed a bit forced.
The Weeknd continues to still go Pop. This plan and execution doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but it seemed like The Weeknd was trying to do something groundbreaking when in fact it was a bit too far fetched for his catalog.
“Dawn FM” is a cohesive album that has a set narrative and vibe. Although it was a risk to go for this new sound, it was the most diverse and “out there” project in Tesfaye’s discography. Change doesn’t always have to be a good thing. I for one love a cohesive album and transitioning tracks, but with some of them dragging on the way they did, I felt bored at times. I was pleased with the majority of the album, but overall this album may sit at #5 in terms of Tesfaye’s entire discography.
I give “Dawn FM” a three out of five stars. While there is plenty to cling onto and many tracks for all fans of music to appreciate, this album failed to really “wow” me as a whole. It is well worth the listen, and perhaps only gets better with time. However, I was expecting this album to be a potential ‘all timer’ and it was not.