Anguish, reminiscent, mysterious, selfish, electronic, nostalgic – all of these words were swimming through my brain after I first listened to Dawn FM, the newest masterpiece from The Weeknd. It is a full body experience that will send you down dark, winding roads towards the final light. Welcome to the convoluted world that is Dawn FM.
The radio show theme of the album, being 103.5 Dawn FM, has been a concept explored on other projects. Tyler, The Creator’s Flower Boy and Vince Staples’ FM! are among some of the most notable examples, both of which were executed flawlessly. This style brings to fruition supreme cohesiveness and seamless transitions throughout, in order to create the right environment. The narration allows more concrete storytelling, as there is always a guiding light to transition between ideas, styles, and feelings. Jim Carrey’s distinct voice is eloquently painted as an all-knowing being, superior to humans, ready to navigate the storm.
Through this, The Weeknd delivers a self-reflective album, using his past experiences to remake himself and understand his legacy. The title track kickstarts this, setting the scene as an entrance to the afterlife. It portrays the message that will be so vital to the album as a whole – accept and understand your past actions in order to grow and depart this world with an impact you are proud of.
Tracks such as “How Do I Make You Love Me” begin this evolution, as The Weeknd reaches out to his ex-lover, asking how he can make his character more appealing. The despair in his voice stands out amongst the array of sounds in the instrumental, a production tool utilized throughout the album.
The groovy “Sacrifice” shows the first sign of his growth, admitting that he put too much of himself into the relationship as he begins to try to move on. However, a quick transition brought by Quincy Jones’s interlude brings up the ideas of deep rooted behavioral issues, stemming from The Weeknd’s upbringing. This reflection leads to the Bruno Mars-esque “Out of Time.” This contains a double meaning – being out of time to reunite with his former lover, and being out of time to escape his inevitable death. The Jim Carrey outro further accentuates the necessity of moving on, saying, “Before you're completely engulfed in the blissful embrace of that little light you see in the distance / Soon you'll be healed, forgiven, and refreshed / Free from all trauma, pain, guilt, and shame.”
Succeeding this is a stretch of nostalgia as The Weeknd reflects on past experiences. “Here We Go…Again” featuring Tyler, The Creator seems to allude to The Weeknd’s relationship with Selena Gomez, leading into the realization that he is not mentally capable of being in a sustainable relationship. The bouncy “Is There Someone Else” is not only one of my favorites on the album, but also tackles some of his deepest insecurities. The high pitched singing in the intro and outro were featured on one of the first Instagram teasers of the album, contributing to one of the only tracks that is reminiscent of prior The Weeknd projects.
All of these emotions amount to a greater understanding of his mental state. “Don’t Break My Heart” perfectly creates the environment of breaking up in the club while singing about being broken up with in the club. He is worried of the consequences he will make himself face due to the heartbreak, transitioning into “I Heard You’re Married” as he takes a stand against the deception and misleading he’s faced.
The send off of the album is the melodious “Less Than Zero.” It is one of The Weeknd’s best vocal displays on the entire album, as the electro-sound dissipates for a simpler combination of guitar and drums to lead the instrumental. The chorus bursts with emotion and volume, almost certain to give you the chills. The feeling of worthlessness and inability to let go of everything brings closure to all prior ideas, as the Jim Carrey outro track reveals. His words, an ode to self love, hit devastatingly hard, departing with, “You gotta be Heaven to see Heaven / May peace be with you.”
The overall message of the outro leaves The Weeknd reflecting on his growth as he strives to let go of his past and reach the final goal – Heaven. The theme of growth helps understand the album cover, which features an image of The Weeknd looking old and wrinkly, close to death even. The electronic sound of the album guides this even further, creating a futuristic dystopian universe within its 51 minutes and 49 seconds. This is even more fitting if you understand the concept of one of Jim Carrey’s most famous films, The Truman Show, where he stars as someone who has been living in a false reality all his life. It’s up to Truman to take control and change what has happened in the past, something The Weeknd struggles with.
Purple Rain will be crashing down from the sky, encompassing all who listen to Dawn FM. Listen below: