The Weeknd returns with a world of 80’s inspired synth pop on fifth album, Dawn FM

A+New+Dawn%2C+A+New+Age+--+Abel+Tesfaye%2C+also+known+as+The+Weeknd%2C+pictured+in+promotion+for+his+latest+album%2C+Dawn+FM%2C+which+dropped+a+week+into+the+New+Year+on+January+7%2C+2022.

Brian Ziff

A New Dawn, A New Age — Abel Tesfaye, also known as The Weeknd, pictured in promotion for his latest album, Dawn FM, which dropped a week into the New Year on January 7, 2022.

Jackson Seafoss, Staff Writer

Best known for the chart topping single, “Blinding Lights,” from 2020’s After Hours, The Weeknd, or his real name, Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, has been making waves in the pop and R&B sphere since 2010 with his debut mixtape, House Of Balloons.

Since the drop of lead single,“Take My Breath” in 2021, fans, have been speculating the release of a follow-up album after the critically acclaimed, After Hours, in 2020. With the surprise release of new album, Dawn FM, in the first week of the New Year, The Weeknd revives 80s synth and dance pop at modern take and dives deeper into the heavy, emotive lyrics of its predecessor. Being a concept album, Dawn FM explores the transition to the afterlife formatted as a radio show with famed actor, Jim Carrey, as its host.

Starting with a string of well written tracks, the intro, Dawn FM brings listeners into the world of the album with an array of synthesizer textures bringing forth a dystopian atmosphere with Jim Carrey stating that “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.”

The next three tracks, “Gasoline”, “How Do I Make You Love Me?”, and “Take My Breath” see powerful vocal performances from Tesfaye enveloped in a rich stratosphere of synthesizer and drum machine symphony. From its crisp production to Tesfaye’s beautiful melodies and phrasing, “Take My Breath” is one of the high points on the album.

The second single off the album, “Sacrifice”, sees Tesfaye embracing his Michael Jackson and Daft Punk influences, seeming to draw inspiration from albums like Thriller and Random Access Memories, with its groove and instrumentation. Lyrically, “Sacrifice” shows an evolution from After Hours in that Tesfaye accepts being on his own and not sacrificing parts of his life for someone else.

The next few tracks are where the album takes a turn. Aside from the track, “Out of Time” which has a slow, R&B feel, the proceeding tracks come off a bit bland after the strong start. The track “Here We Go…Again” features famed rapper and producer, Tyler the Creator, which adds to the likeability of the track. However, the lyrics on this track come off a bit egotistical.

The tracks, “Best Friends”, “Is There Someone Else?”, and “Starry Eyes” shine instrumentally with their dance pop feel and Tesfaye’s vocal performances, although are personally not quite memorable. The album hits another low with the proceeding track, “I Heard You’re Married” which features rapper Lil Wayne. Aside from the instrumental and The Weeknd’s vocal performance which are very well produced, the Lil Wayne feature simply weighs the track down. Coupled with a strange vocaloid effect, Wayne’s vocal delivery and lyrics during his feature come off uninspired and awkward.

The album ends on a high note with “Less Than Zero” and “Phantom Regret by Jim”. Similar to “Save Your Tears” on After Hours, “Less Than Zero” features a memorable chorus, arpeggiated synth lines, and an overall upbeat feel.

Overall, Dawn FM is a sonically darker, emotional, follow up to After Hours that fully embraces 80s synth pop textures.