“Dawn FM”: A 52-Minute Euphoric Drive to the Afterlife


Dan Ramos, Editorial Board

The Weeknd’s 2020 album After Hours was a fantastic record as we entered the unknown of the COVID-19 pandemic. Also known as Abel Tesfaye, his After Hours felt nostalgic with its 80s influenced sound heard in songs like “Blinding Lights” and “In Your Eyes,” soundtracking the times of quarantine. After Hours was met with critical acclaim, and The Weeknd came with a phenomenal Super Bowl Halftime performance during Super Bowl LV.
As we reach the “hopeful” end of the pandemic, The Weeknd has returned for his new record, Dawn FM. Tesfaye has been teasing his return since After Hours with the single “Take My Breath” releasing in August 2021. On “Take My Breath,” The Weeknd continued his After Hours aesthetic with the song’s satisfying synths and disco-pop sound. This single would be considered by many as the “song of the summer,” even with its late arrival.
Dawn FM starts with an ominous introduction, with its mysterious synths and Abel’s angelic vocals, and… Jim Carrey? Yes, Jim Carrey is a feature on the album and an amazing one. Carrey voices 103.5 Dawn FM’s radio host, taking the listener on a psychedelic trip between death and the afterlife.
As we settle on this ride to the afterlife, “Gasoline” is the first song to soundtrack our journey. The Weeknd’s deeper vocals on this track are new but welcoming. “How Do I Make You Love Me?” has a bumping disco sound that could be played in a late-nigh t club. “Take My Breath” returns on the album, but this time as an extended version, which honestly serves this song justice. Then we get to, by far my favorite track, “Sacrifice.” I LOVE “Sacrifice.” The head-bobbing riff looping throughout the track and robotic backing vocals reminded me of the retired electronic duo, Daft Punk, one of my favorite artists. Daft Punk’s sound influence doesn’t surprise me since Tesfaye has worked with Daft Punk in the past, working on songs like “Starboy” and “I Feel It Coming” on his 4th studio album Starboy.
“Out of Time” is addicting to listen to. I love its mellow sound and Michael Jackson-like vocals. Tyler, the Creator is on Dawn FM! On “Here We Go… Again,” Tyler tears into the permanence of marriage, avoiding the commitment of a life-long relationship, repeatedly pleading for a prenup. Though I was expecting more from Tyler, his feature does suffice. “Is There Someone Else” is a track I was waiting for ever since The Weeknd announced the album on January 3rd. The infectious beat sounds of The Weeknd’s early work, as far back as Trilogy. It is definitely one of my favorites off the album. Even with its very nice transition, “Starry Eyes” initially didn’t stun me as much as the other tracks. That was until I realized I needed to be in the right mood to listen to it. It’s a devastating track, as Abel cautions the consequences of love. “Every Angel is Terrifying” feels to me like an interlude but a very interesting one. Halfway through the song it turns into an advertisement for the Afterlife. Tesfaye promotes the Afterlife like it was a product that was weirdly enjoyable to listen to even if it wasn’t a full length song. (The number Tesfaye mentions, 1-800-444-4444, is an actual phone number you can call, but all it does is repeat over your phone number.) “I Heard You’re Married” is a great track, though I’ve not replayed this track more than others. Its summer-like sound and Lil Wayne’s feature is something I could drive to on an empty freeway late at night. On the topic of Lil Wayne, he has not missed even once on every feature over the past year. Wayne’s feature on Tyler, the Creator’s CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST is still one of my favorite features in the past year. As the final song, “Less Than Zero” is so upbeat and energetic. The elevating synths backing the track and kicking drum loop could light up a dark room. I wouldn’t be surprised if I began to hear this track loop on the radio in the next couple of months. The album closes with Carrey’s radio commentary behind a synth-filled instrumental, reassuring the listener that the transition to the Afterlife would be calming and “May Peace Be With [Them.]” Jim Carrey’s addition to the album is a haunting and great one, and I’m very happy that he’s on the album. The transitions on each track are immaculate. Every song flows into each other perfectly, and sometimes I would mistakenly believe we were on the same song until I checked Spotify and realized we were on to the next song. However, I found myself skipping “Don’t Break My Heart” during most of my relistens during the first weekend the album’s been out. Most of the songs on the album also sounded very similar, but Abel was able to give each track a different identity through his vocals, and I think it was his goal to maintain the same sound throughout the album.
I do believe that The Weeknd’s previous album is sonically better than Dawn FM. After Hours was an experience that I’ll never forget. With its world-building rollout, remarkable theming, and 80s-like production, it’s a significant benchmark in The Weeknd’s discography. But Dawn FM is still excellent in every field. As a whole album that revolves around a radio station, with radio tag callouts and Carrey’s radio host commentary, immersed me on this ride to the Afterlife. Dawn FM takes lots of influence from 80s classics like Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and even recently Random Access Memories from Daft Punk, another 80s influenced record. Dawn FM was met with high expectations, and all was met. The Weeknd’s new sound of funk and disco reassures XO fans that he’s still one of R&B’s best.

Jim Carrey, contributor to the album
Tyler, the Creator and Lil Wayne, contributors to the album