Not your typical album: “Dawn FM”


(Emily Stull)

By Lily Lunn, Lifestyles Editor, Graphics Editor, Social Media Editor

Tuning into “Dawn FM”, I was transported to Los Angeles stumbling out of a club and into my car at sunrise after a week-long bender. On my drive home I’m coming down, and am greeted by the early morning LA traffic. The start and stop pace from the traffic around me mimics the highs and lows of the album. 

I am one of The Weeknd’s top listeners and he has been my top artist for five years now. I have been to concerts, spent countless dollars on merch, and I may or may not have run a fan account at one point. I can name any song after only listening to the first few seconds; I will always stand by his experimental Super Bowl performance and will argue that it was far superior to any other halftime show. 

The Weeknd, also known as Abel Tesfaye, is a Canadian rhythm and blues singer-songwriter most commonly known for his songs about sex, drugs, and relationships. Tesfaye has released countless hit albums starting with “Trilogy.” His first studio album “Kiss Land” debuted at No. 2 and sold 95,000 copies. His later projects include “Beauty Behind the Madness,” “Starboy,” “My Dear Melancholy,” and “After Hours.” His fans had been anticipating the release of another album sometime this year; however, no date had been officially announced. 

On Jan. 3, Tesfaye uploaded a trailer teaser for his new album to Instagram, in the caption he revealed the release date: Jan. 7, and the title: “Dawn FM.” He promoted the album by leaking the album cover art: a picture of himself aged beyond recognition: sun-damaged, wrinkled, grey-haired and all.

“Dawn FM” is a listening experience rather than your typical album; the album plays like listening to your favorite radio station. Songs are interrupted with catchy jingles and commercials that give the listeners inside information about the album. The tone is retro-inspired and filled with ‘80s nostalgia. It includes 16 tracks, all centered around coping with drug use, heartbreak, meaningless sex, and brushes with love and joy. The “station,” “Dawn FM,” is hosted by none other than Jim Carrey. 


“Dawn FM”

Just seconds into the first track I am enchanted by The Weeknd’s lyrics, “This part I do alone/I’ll take my lead,” ready to embark on a spiritual journey. I am greeted by another familiar voice. Carrey’s voice sounds robotic and dark when he says, “You are now listening to 103.5 Dawn FM”; his message continues, “You’ve been in the dark for way too long/It’s time to walk into the light.”


“Take My Breath” and “Sacrifice”

“Take My Breath” was originally released as a single a few months prior to the album. The song initially did not get as much traction; however, I think the release of the full album will change that. Again, it’s all about the experience. “Sacrifice” was the second single to drop before the album and was co-produced by Swedish House Mafia. Both songs are funk-inspired, passionate songs that ride you through the temptations of romantic relationships


“Here We Go… Again” 

On this track, The Weeknd is joined by Tyler, The Creator, an extremely exciting collaboration for fans of both artists. Personally, my expectations for the collaboration were just set too high. Tyler’s verse was repetitive and lacked the intensity that the rest of the album pushed. The highlight of the track was towards the end when The Weeknd’s voice chimed in singing a jingle for the station, “The number one station to free your soul/Dawn 103.5.” I liked that the radio station “vibe” is cohesive throughout the album.


“Best Friends” 

“Best Friends” describes the narrative between two friends choosing to become lovers and then facing the truth that they were better as friends. The lyrics dig into the truth about dealing with the consequences of “catching feelings” for one another.  The up-tempo and booming bass of the song captures the feeling of high intensity and suspense in the relationship. 


“Is There Someone Else?” 

For long-time listeners, “Is There Someone Else?” is a throwback to The Weeknd’s Trilogy era. The twist on the song now is that the tables have turned, he expresses worry about a third party being involved in the relationship, which contrasts with his earlier music where he shared that he is not bothered by cheating because he feels that he can always move on with someone else. 


“Less Than Zero”

“Less Than Zero” is one of my personal favorites on the album. In recent years The Weeknd has experimented with the pop genre, and every time he has done a fantastic job taking basic beats and creating a new sound. It is probably the most upbeat song on the album; it is a direct parallel to any successful ‘80s pop song: catchy, cheery, and an anthem that my mom would rock out to. 


“Phantom Regret by Jim”

Carrey thanks the listener for tuning in, “​​You’re tuned to Dawn FM/The middle of nowhere on your dial/So sit back and unpack/You may be here awhile/Now that all future plans have been postponed.” The lyrics in this interlude read like poetry. Carrey sums up the themes of the album perfectly, themes of “chaos and bliss”, and leaves the listener something to think about as the music fades out, “In other words/You gotta be Heaven to see Heaven.”

I highly recommend giving this album a listen no matter what your music taste or even if you are a fan of The Weeknd at all.  The songs I chose to review are songs with lyrics that will evoke emotions in everyone leaving the listeners complicating their present and past relationships.  While intense and provocative, “Dawn FM’ surely isn’t my favorite album of his–I don’t even think it’s in my top three–however, this album isn’t meant to be listened to, it’s meant to be experienced.