A New Dawn for The Weeknd


The Weeknd has once again proven to be an incredibly unique artist (courtesy of Instagram).  

Abel Tesfaye, better known as The Weeknd, has once again proven to be an incredibly unique musician and artist with his fifth studio album, “Dawn FM.”  Bordering the line of concept album, The Weeknd turns something as simple as tuning into a radio station into a complex and ominous experience, as he introduces heavy themes such as nihilism, desperation and purgatory.

In the introductory and title track, The Weeknd previews the entire album experience with several standout features. From the 103.5 Dawn FM jingle to the encompassing Jim Carrey narration, The Weeknd creates a track that simultaneously soothes and unsettles listeners. The synthesizer heavy sound introduced in this song is carried throughout the rest of the album, paying homage to 80s R&B and dance pop. 

The artistic collaborations are another captivating aspect of the album. More conventional features include Tyler, the Creator and Lil Wayne. The Weeknd also collaborates with Swedish House Mafia and Agents of Time on the Alternate World edition of the album, contributing to the album’s complex and unique sound. There is an interlude track of Quincy Jones talking about his childhood trauma and how his mother’s dementia affected his ability to love, jarringly set to a smooth 80’s R&B instrumental. Finally, Jim Carrey was a surprising feature that made many  surprising cameos throughout the album, taking on the role of 103.5 Dawn FM’s DJ. His soothing voice and the vaguely alarming messages he broadcasts create a deliberate sense of confusion and haze which contributes to the recurring theme of purgatory and the unknown.

The Weeknd took this album in a very unexpected direction thematically, as songs like “How Do I Make You Love Me?” and “Is There Someone Else?” move away from confrontations with his own toxic behavior that are especially present in “After Hours” and “My Dear Melancholy.” He presents an entirely new perspective where he is now the victim, succumbing to desperation and begging. However, he still explores his own weaknesses with songs like “Less Than Zero” and “Out of Time,” highlighting the nuances of love as inherently flawed beings. 

While the album does contain songs with great replay value and potential to be mainstream radio hits, there are edgy and experimental tracks as well. “Every Angel Is Terrifying” is the eccentric exploration into the universe this album aims to create. The inclusion of a commercial for the afterlife is an emphatic reminder of The Weeknd’s constant urge to expand creative boundaries. 

Critics of this album have argued that many of the songs sound alike, but this points to one of the album’s most prominent and effective features: transitions. Each song transitions seamlessly into the next, giving the album a strong sense of continuity that reflects the experience of listening to songs fade into each other on the radio. Many artists incorporate transitions in between songs, but The Weeknd’s use of them on an entire album is unique in how they help support the main theme of the album.

Known for having an extremely loyal and dedicated fanbase, The Weeknd has kept fans intrigued and obsessed with each album rollout by essentially creating entirely new personas for each of his albums. Rather than just making his creations about the music itself, he builds universes with each era of music through carefully crafted visuals, sounds, costumes and cosmetics. Following the drug-fueled mania that comprised his “After Hours” image, The Weeknd’s new identity includes both a current and aged version of himself, an interesting nod to the messages of life, death and what comes in between.

The journey isn’t over for The Weeknd fans, as the singer recently revealed on his Twitter that “After Hours” and “Dawn FM” are a part of a new trilogy. This project alludes to the album that launched his career, comprising three mixtapes. It will be interesting to see how he closes out this saga that began in the intense, chaotic and dangerous nighttime and transitioned into a hazy morning that has yet to see the consequences that a new day will hold. 

Two weeks after the release, The Weeknd has repositioned himself as the most listened to artist on Spotify and has absolutely dominated the charts once again. He’s in the prime of his career and the success of this daring and highly unconventional creation shows that he has found success in pushing mainstream audiences to become more open and receptive to different kinds of art.