The Weeknd wakes up with a hangover after his After Hours binge
After Hours followed the Weeknd’s journey late into the night, as he fell victim to his own worst habits. Dawn FM is him waking up from that hangover, dealing with regrets and “obsessing over aftermaths, apocalypse, and hopelessness,” as he puts it on Gasoline. The stark difference in his appearances on the album covers for Dawn FM vs. After Hours depicts a hyperbolic before and after—or even cause and effect. The grey, aged version of the Weeknd—the Dawn FM version—shows a man looking concerned as he is finally confronted with the consequences of his damaging lifestyle. The song titles alone reveal an exhausted, paranoid attitude: Sacrifice, Out of Time, Here We Go…Again, Is There Someone Else?, Every Angel Is Terrifying, Less Than Zero, etc. But even if his After Hours binge did take some years off his life and give him a new perspective, The Weeknd is still ready to party and flirt with plenty of vices on Dawn FM.
Dawn FM is filled with the sounds of techno, disco, and 80’s rock
The Weeknd’s first project, Trilogy, was bold in its dark intimacy. By design, the themes of sexual escapism and dark lustful fantasy made it perfect for isolated listening in headphones or bedrooms—or most likely headphones in bedrooms. But since Trilogy, his music has gradually become bigger and clubbier and intended for mass listening, which has led him to become the certified pop star he is. Not just any pop star, but one with an excellent Super Bowl performance on his resume. On The Weeknd’s album Starboy from 2018, his potential for pop stardom became apparent: his hits with Daft Punk, Starboy and I Feel It Coming, launched the singer’s art into the techno pop arena, and his new style was born. The songs leading off Dawn FM show a larger penchant for 80’s pop revival than any of his previous work; the drawn-out intro on the Take My Breath extended version contorts into something that could fit into some of the more underground discotheque mixes in Europe, and Gasoline takes overt inspiration from 80’s alternative British rock. Executive produced by Oneohtrix Point Never and Max Martin, The Weeknd balances disco pop with synth-heavy electronic production on Dawn FM, moving further away from his alternative R&B roots.
Jim Carrey plays quirky radio host and tour guide throughout Dawn FM
Jim Carrey speaks on the intro and outro on the Weeknd’s new album. That reality is still as surprising as it is epic. With a soft and soothing delivery, and parodying of religious talk radio personalities, Carrey welcomes the listener to Dawn FM: “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.” Carrey also gives the album’s outro on Phantom Regret, with some spooky existential rhymes worth rewinding. In an interview with GQ in August, the Weeknd discussed his relationship with Jim Carrey, and how the comedian surprised him on his 30th birthday to take him out to breakfast. The Weeknd also shared that the two wave to each other through their telescopes from their LA homes. Again, as surprising as it is epic.
Dawn FM is a warning message about the painful sides of toxic love
The Weeknd’s music has always been defined by hedonism; his songs revolve around feelings of addiction and toxic romance. But if you’re paying attention, you’ll see he rarely glorifies this hedonistic lifestyle. Instead, he’s constantly reminding everyone of the pitfalls of its shallow nature. On Dawn FM, he makes this point obvious to the point of satirical. The album cover is essentially a big warning sign to anyone who missed the point; the cover is equivalent to the pictures of toothless smiles on cigarette packs in Germany: beware what this lifestyle will cost you. On A Tale By Quincy, The Weeknd delves further than he ever has into addressing the psychological roots of his harmful behavior and the role fear plays in it. He outsources this responsibility to legendary record producer Quincy Jones, who gives an honest reflection of how his own upbringing has caused him to make mistakes as a father and a partner. The interlude goes a long way in making the album’s larger message stick.
Less Than Zero tugs at the acoustic heart strings
When’s the last time The Weeknd built a song around an acoustic guitar? On the album’s last song, Less Than Zero, he does exactly this, singing over minor chords about the hard truth of disillusionment in his relationship. Like he mused on his last album, he knows he’s been the Hardest to Love, and here he doubles down on that claim. Less Than Zero is the emotional pinnacle of Dawn FM, where the mistakes he’s made cost him his relationship and shape his identity. After everything he’s been through, he has made no romantic progress—he’s actually made negative progress. Hence the stressed out, dejected, and grey-haired appearance on the album’s cover. The dawn has not been kind to him, but the harsh truth might be helpful. 🍑