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Sunday, May 22, 2022

Rate and Review: The Weeknd balances nostalgia and new age in “Dawn FM”

The Weeknd’s 16-track album dropped on Friday

A suffocating relationship fueled by gasoline and the blind will to keep moving forward make a great story. Include ’80s synthesizers and love-toned harmonies and the recipe for the next The Weeknd album is in your hands. I wasn’t expecting to travel through the last 40 years of music listening to this project but I did, twice. 

Eleven years after the release of his mixtape trilogy “House of Balloons,” “Thursday” and “Echoes of Silence,” The Weeknd is a multi-platinum, Grammy award-winning artist. His newest album released on Jan. 7, “Dawn FM,” marks one of the first music projects to be dropped in 2022.

Abel Tesfaye, better known as The Weeknd, boasts a broad and bold discography using elements of ’80s funk, pop and R&B. On Spotify, the 31-year-old artist has over 80 million monthly listeners, and Friday’s drop shared a new 52-minute, 16-track album. 

Through the album, The Weeknd invited his listeners to once again feel the nostalgia he conveys in his music.

The Weeknd’s work parodies popular Christian radio station 103.5 WMUZ-FM. Instead of using his music to spread ‘the Good News,’ these songs, although upbeat, carry a sultry underlying tone that discuss unholy experiences. 

He frames these experiences through nostalgic radio mixes, classic ’80s remixes and textured sound effects. 

Staying true to the era, instrumental breaks build the anticipation for The Weeknd’s harmonies.

Transitions between songs “Dawn FM,” “Gasoline,” “How Do I Make You Love Me” and “Take My Breath” are smooth and seamless. The basic drum samples are upbeat and pass from one song effortlessly to the next. 

The Weeknd does not waver from his signature style either. 

Many of these tracks have a ‘gotcha’ factor — the tunes imply relaxation but the lyrics make you concentrate. After listening to the album, you want to watch his music video and listen again. The subtle metaphors of his lyrics are illustrated in the music videos for “Sacrifice” and “Take My Breath.” 

Rappers Lil Wayne and Tyler, the Creator are the two musical artists he featured on this project. Tyler appears on “Here We Go… Again” and Wayne on “I Heard You’re Married.”

Michael Jackson’s historic influence is strongly heard in “Here We Go… Again.” Lies, love and dreams are richly sung. The synthesizer that carries the track complements The Weeknd’s vocals, while Tyler’s verse stresses caution in these kinds of relationships. 

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Wayne’s verse in “I Heard You’re Married” delivers a sour humor that bitterly fits the song. 

Although The Weeknd uses his creativity to tell a story about people’s pleasures and desires, he also sings about the painful realities that these pleasures cost. “Starry Eyes” is a track that sums the personal costs of staying in unhealthy relationships. The haunting melody and the shortness of the song play into that danger of wanting more of a bad thing. 

My favorite song on “Dawn FM” is “Out of Time.” 

As an avid Japanese ’80s pop mixtape lover, hearing the intro for “Midnight Pretenders,” written by Tomoko Aran and Tetsuro Hamada, made me jump up and listen with more excitement. “Out of Time” is a reflective song and delivers a message similar to Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man.” It reframed the original desire in Aran’s song in the despairing loss of no longer having who you want.

As The Weeknd’s perspective on who he desires changes, the messages that alluded to salvation earlier in the album are now more aggressive and carry harder tones. 

Interlude, “A Tale By Quincy” and songs “Sacrifice” and “Starry Eyes” define those changes in the album. The tempo is more progressive — similar to ’90s tracks. 

As the styles of the songs become more modern, the relationship he describes in the beginning of the album loses its luster. 

A softer drumming of the guitar frames “Less Than Zero” as he sings about moving on. He uses this instrument to share how the intensity of the relationships have softened. They’ve lost their vibrancy and he is ready to let go. 

The Weeknd’s aged appearance on the cover isn’t a coincidence. Experiencing relationships like the ones in this album are taxing. The head-bopping ’80s tracks make the story’s heaviness easier to digest. 

This is a great new selection for Karaoke Night with friends or family. 

As of Jan. 8, Billboard’s Hot 100 listed The Weeknd in two spaces. Separate collaborations with artists Doja Cat and Post Malone, earned him spots 39 and 42 on the list. 

Producing an album like this after experiencing a Grammy snub last year shows how The Weeknd’s artistry spotlights the things that bring him pain. He collaborated with no less than 15 producers to create “Dawn FM.” 

This final product shows their collaboration and deserves a rating of 9/10. 

Contact Thandie Brown at tbrown@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @decidedlioness.

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Thandie Brown

Thandie Brown is a journalism student at UF and a reporter on the Metro beat. This is her first semester at the Alligator, and when she is not writing, she is photographing. You may find her in the Plaza of Americas dressed in a jeans jacket decorated with her favorite things.


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