Album Review: Dawn FM

by John Downey '23 on January 29, 2022
A&E Co-Editor

Arts & Entertainment

Album Review: Dawn FM

The Weeknd Takes Us on a Trip Through Purgatory

Olivia Riportella ’25

The sudden release of R&B/pop icon The Weeknd’s new album Dawn FM on Jan. 7 has taken the world by storm. Featuring artists such as Tyler the Creator, Lil Wayne, Oneohtrix Point Never, Jim Carrey, Quincy Jones, and Swedish House Mafia, this album is packed with exciting contributions. It is on track to be one of the superstar’s most critically-acclaimed records, featuring 16 songs for a total of 51 minutes and 49 seconds. 

Dawn FM is the most intriguing release by Abel Tesfaye thus far, and certainly one of the most intriguing pop albums in years. Tesfaye has said that the record is conceptualized around the experience of listening to a retro-pop radio station while sitting in traffic in a tunnel, but the tunnel is actually purgatory. This vision makes for a fascinatingly compelling narrative, and picks up from where his 2020 release, After Hours, left off in its storyline.  

After Hours was a dancefloor record released in the midst of a global pandemic, when all dancefloors were shut down. It served as a way for The Weeknd to come to terms with his depression and darker feelings during what seemed to be the end of the world. After Hours concludes with Tesfaye’s character’s death in the angst-filled final song, “Until I Bleed Out.” Dawn FM continues the character’s journey, opening with pastoral winds and bird sounds as he looks out to the light at the end of the tunnel—which is death. His radio is turned to the futuristic fictional station 103.5 Dawn FM, hosted by The Weeknd’s real-life neighbor Jim Carrey, who parodies a blissed-out DJ. 

There is a looming terror and dread in Dawn FM, which Tesfaye ironically contrasts with a upbeat, retro-pop sound. The album is one of his most creative, with a retro, disco-synth sound of euphoria in its first half followed by a more serene sound in its second half.

Dawn FM is on the path for global domination as it has already broken impressive records in its release. For one, The Weeknd has now charted 24 songs on the Billboard Global 200, the most by any male solo artist in history. The album also debuted at No. 1 on Apple Music U.S and in 125 other countries, and it is currently No. 1 on Spotify U.S. and globally.

Additionally, this latest release has earned The Weeknd his highest critical praise on an album thus far in his career. Dawn FM received a Metacritic score of 88, while Rolling Stone rated the album four out of five stars. Various critics have acclaimed his creative artistry on the album

Notably, The Weeknd has already released an “Alternate World” deluxe version of Dawn FM, featuring a remix of “Sacrifice,” “Take My Breath,” and “Moth to a Flame.”

In exciting news, the artist has insinuated that Dawn FM will be the first installment of “a new trilogy.” Given that the storyline surrounding Dawn FM is seemingly endless, it will certainly provide the Weeknd with ample opportunity to continue experimenting with his creative style of music.