The Canadian singer and producer (Real name Abel Makkonen Tesfaye) was on my radar in 2016 with “Starboy”, but it was the unavoidably catchy hit single “Blinding Lights” in 2020 that actually made me listen. And it’s here I feel cat-fished. The track was such an up-beat, synth-driven masterpiece of simple, energetic, modern pop, you couldn’t help but love it; I was on board. Such a hit surely suggested the album had SOME more of the same? “After Hours” was in fact, instead, nearly an hour of consistently disappointing boredom. Never mind blinding lights, I wanted to punch his lights out!
2022 now finds The Weeknd kicking off the new year with his follow up album “Dawn FM”...and as we’re about to check it out, let it be known that my expectations are low. With that being said however, let me just caveat this. It could quite possibly be, that, I enjoyed one stand-alone track so much, that I’ve not given the artist a true chance; to know their actual style, background and influences...perhaps...anyway...let’s tune into “Dawn FM”.
The album kicks off with the title track and low and behold, it’s an intro piece. There are some sweet, ambient keys, birds chirping and soft electronic notes over The Weeknd’s gentle, highly autotuned vocals, yet it’s quite deep in its fleeting run-time, speaking of the fear and uncertainty of solitude, but, also the understanding and awareness that, somethings are to be done alone. It’s the beginning of a new journey here, and whatever the conditions, we’re in for a ride.
First track proper then, is the single “Gasoline” and musically, it’s quite a bubbly little piece of, shoegaze inspired synth-pop, with gentle percussion, and an overall sense of minimalism. It’s quirky in its own ways on face value, but it’s lyrically where the track becomes grittier. Here he openly refers to his own demons, and battles with substance abuse, and how he’s very aware of his own mortality. He’s really quite ok with the notion of, if he does manage to overdose and die in his sleep, so be it, but he does want to find faith in himself to not suffer such fate; he sounds...torn?
He continues somewhat strongly then, as we get “How Do I Make You Love Me?”, which stylistically is similar. Instrumentally we get more of the retro synth-wave taking centre-stage while the percussion remains restrained, as he sings, almost vulnerably about slight insecurities. There’s an uncertainty over his own self-confidence, in ways continuing on from the previous track; he’s incredibly self-aware regarding, potential flaws, but at the same time, deep down knows he can bring out the best in you...a sort of, help me help you situation emotionally, and mentally. This transitions very smoothly then into “Take My Breath” which is again, musically in the same vein. My only issue here is, the track is unnecessarily drawn out, and those drawn-out bits, musically, give me PTSD, as they very much remind me of a certain remix by one COREY FELDMAN for his track “Ascension Millennium” …and we’re not going THERE again...
For the most part then, the remainder of the album, at sixteen tracks in total, is quite consistent in its tone and delivery, and it sadly, as a listening experience becomes a little flat. The vocal delivery is smooth and harmonious, as he does have a very clean, soulful style, and he sings well, and lyrically, he’s a very honest storyteller in his song writing, but at face value, nothing truly leaps out at you from this album. There are some brief appearances from TYLER, THE CREATOR and LIL’ WAYNE that add a hint of diversity in the vocal presentation, but overall, this is a very subtle album about reflection, and the journey has been quite the personal one. Some enjoyable moments, but truthfully, “Dawn FM” isn’t worth getting up early for.