If Abel Tesfaye, best known as The Weeknd, has proven anything throughout his musical career, it’s that he is a force to be reckoned with. His previous album, After Hours, had critics proclaiming he was at his most prolific. However, with Dawn FM, it’s clear The Weeknd has taken his powers to new heights.
In a recent interview, The Weeknd stated that the “loose” concept of Dawn FM is purgatory in a traffic jam, and that “while we’re waiting there’s a radio station playing: 103.5 Dawn FM, and the radio DJ is guiding you through the painless transition into the light.” The radio DJ in question?: fellow Canadian, Jim Carrey. Carrey also is the last voice to speak on the record in “Phantom Regret by Jim,” saying, “When you’re all out of time, there’s nothing but space. No hunting, no gathering, no nations, no race. And heaven is closer than those tears on your face, when the purple rain falls, we are all bathed in its grace.” The mention of “purple rain” is in reference to 80s musician, Prince, and listeners can feel his influence in the lofty, melodic beats in the ballads of the album, like “Here We Go…Again” with Tyler, The Creator.
The album is definitely The Weeknd’s most cohesive and upbeat. Prior albums, although great, were stuck in the realm of darkness and toxicity. Here, Tesfaye embraces the 80s-pop and R&B aesthetic and brings it to the foreground in a way that resembles the sounds of Michael Jackson. There is also the obsession with the “second British invasion.” There are multiple points on this album where The Weeknd not only samples sounds from bands like A Flock Of Seagulls, but outright uses a British accent, like in “Gasoline” and “Don’t Break My Heart.”
All in all, The Weeknd demonstrates he still has the ability to create bangers and ballads that will last for months to come, but in a way that is way less heavy, especially in his lyrics. In the opening lines of “Out of Time,” Tesfaye sings, “The last few months I’ve been working on me, baby/There’s so much trauma in my life.” Through Dawn FM, it feels as if Tesfaye has finally embraced the trauma instead of wallowing in it, focusing on the dawn instead of the night.