D.awn FM is Dom Perignon of male manipulator music. It’s the unnatural, glamorous glowing negging of toxic waste and the smooth smoothness of need, meanness and sanctity. Released without fanfare in the first week of the year and still absurdly spectacular 11 months later, The Weeknd’s fifth album (his finest and still astounding 2011 mixtape trilogy). Eighth if you count) is also his most dazzlingly insane, a star looking to give mainstream, stadium-primed pop music its own vision.
Dawn FM serves as the midpoint of a trilogy of concept albums, beginning with 2020’s After Hours and supposedly ending with an album about the afterlife. But it also feels like a direct response to After Hours’ success. The record allowed Abel Tesfaye to showcase his most raw and transcendental art to an ever-larger audience. In that music video, he depicted himself battered, bruised, and his teeth stained with blood. He attended awards ceremonies with bandages across his face and occasionally appeared wearing satirical prosthetics. The aesthetically inclined obscure is free from the relatively obscure Scorsese comedy of the ’80s After Hours and the breathtaking atmosphere of his cult synths his pop his band his chromatics. is incorporated into
Still, After Hours was a hit. Producing two of The Weeknd’s most commercially successful singles (one of his biggest songs of all time, Blinding Lights and Save Your Tears), he headlined the Super Bowl halftime show as its headliner. The album ended his cycle, spreading a disorienting and somewhat disturbing vision to a wider audience. Over 90 million people: Hundreds of spooky Weekend clones wearing Tesfaye’s bloody face bandages, likening romance to cocaine addiction, and making spooky military marches akin to samples of Susie and the Banshees While you’re there, frantically make your way through the mirrored halls. Tesfaye took populist nihilism to the greatest possible height – with little sense of compromise.
So, once you’ve conquered the world of Mortal Pop, it’s only natural that it’s time to conquer death itself. Dawn FM is Tesfaye’s concept album about his Weeknd character. A misanthrope, sometimes outright misogynist, a cocaine addict, a melancholy loner who goes through purgatory. Dawn FM is the radio station you listen to on your travels. Disco, R&B, electro, EDM and hip-hop’s hallucinatory whirlpools are shimmering and weird, and take on new dimensions the longer you listen. Jim Carrey narrates throughout, with Quincy Jones and Josh Safdie joining in verbal interludes. At one point, Tesfaye recites Rilke. The music is gorgeous and grandiose, but the concept is, quite frankly, a mess – a dense, coherent experience that can only come from playing pop music’s most meticulous and coherent over the past decade. It’s a paranoid framework. world building.
True to its radio vanity, Dawn FM is structured like a mix, one song fading into another. But this is one of The Weeknd’s most varied albums, as well as the one with the most depth and texture. “Take My Breath” is her six-minute disco her pounder on the theme of erotic suffocation, evoking Cerrone’s Supernature with rocking guitar lines and ominous synths of her hum. His gentle R&B ballad Out of Time, Tesfaye wished he’d loved more before he died, and the dank emotion of his lyrics was twistedly sweet and easy, leaving an indelible stigma on his listenable work. left. Who else with a good friend?80s freestyle patina, augmenting the anvil-heavy bass thrust of his early Weeknd tracks. Tesfaye and his co-executive producer and maestro of avant-garde synths, Oneohtrix Point Never, aka Daniel Lopatin, are the roars of old technology, another psychic, the warmth and sway of synths streamed from his plane, and more. Decorate every sound with a strange haze. Tesfaye and Lopatin clearly share an unlikely sensibility. His Lopatin work here is returning the favor after Tesfaye executive-produced his latest OPN album, his Magic Oneohtrix Point Never in 2020. collaboration.
Dawn FM is not only a technical achievement in terms of textures and references, much like Beyoncé’s equally austere renaissance, but it’s also the most compelling Tesfaye’s Weeknd character has taken since his 2011 mixtape trilogy. It is also a step forward. He was once purely nihilistic and spiteful, but here he shows flashes of regret, both funny and endearing. It’s an intriguing plot twist that steers longtime listeners toward a poignant finale. Less Than Zero is a song that suggests that real regret is hard to come by when you die.
This glisteningly choking song is a hymn to the idea of sticking to our ways until the very end. Ironically, Dawn FM suggests that The Weeknd, who was once known for his bloody pursuit of one very particular vibe, has more to him than meets the eye. increase. It confirms his status as one of our greatest living stars and a writer of inspiration and blazing idiosyncrasy.