What’s Going On: The Weeknd – “Dawn FM”

Canadian crooner The Weeknd dropped his highly anticipated new album Dawn FM on January 7th. The follow-up to his absolutely massive 2020 album After Hours, Dawn FM has featured guests Tyler, the Creator, Lil Wayne, Quincy Jones, and Jim Carrey. Yes, that Jim Carrey. Despite it being released this early in January, has The Weeknd already dropped an early album of the year contender? Well, with the bulk of the songwriting and production handled by The Weeknd, Oneohtrix Point Never, and surefire pop hitmaker Max Martin, Dawn FM feels poised to achieve the same astonishing level of success and cultural ubiquity as its predecessor. 

After flirting with synth-pop in his past work, The Weeknd dove headfirst into the sound on After Hours, the album that took his pop superstardom to new heights. “Blinding Lights”, the second single released from After Hours, was a totally ’80s sounding piece of pop confection that was ranked the #1 Greatest Hot 100 Hit of All Time by Billboard. Sonically, Dawn FM keeps that going and is also rooted heavily in sleek synth-pop and new wave nostalgia. In a somewhat poetic way, it felt appropriate for the music on Dawn FM to lean all the way into robust retro sounds, as the album is meant to be set in purgatory with Jim Carrey playing the role of a radio DJ that guides you through the anguished dance party. Does the concept totally work? No, but it’s cute and a rather inoffensive attempt at turning this glittery collection of songs into something more substantial.

Famed producer Timbaland (Aaliyah, Missy Elliott, Justin Timberlake, Nelly Furtado) jumped out of the window with his hot take, likening Dawn FM to one of Michael Jackson’s most iconic albums: “This s**t right here, this on some Thriller s**t. Trust me when I tell you.” The internet quickly roasted him for it and deservedly so. Dawn FM is great, fantastic even. The album gets off to a hot start with a propulsive and insistent four-song stretch of “Gasoline”, “How Do I Make You Love Me?”, “Take My Breath” and “Sacrifice.” Unfortunately, the momentum falters after that. “Here We Go… Again”, his lacklustre collaboration with Tyler, the Creator, and the juvenile “Best Friends” contribute to the slog in the middle of the album. Things do pick back up again in the latter third of the album, thanks to songs like “Don’t Break My Heart” and the stellar “Less Than Zero.” The Weeknd has already stoked speculation that Dawn FM could be part of a trilogy, which means we could have another synth-heavy album coming soon to round out this trio. 

The Weekend wasted no time and has already delivered Dawn FM (Alternate World), essentially a deluxe reissue of the album. Remixed versions of the singles “Take My Breath” and “Sacrifice” have been tacked on, plus The Weeknd’s 2020 collaboration with Swedish House Mafia “Moth To A Flame.” 

Dawn FM and Dawn FM (Alternate World) are streaming now on all major platforms via XO/Republic.

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