The Weeknd merges synthpop bliss with sci-fi dread on new concept album ‘Dawn FM’ (review)

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Over the past decade, The Weeknd has grown from a mysterious alternative R&B pioneer who samples Beach House, Cocteau Twins and Siouxsie and the Banshees to a pop superstar, and he’s become a rare modern artist with enough singles. larger than life to justify a the biggest hits album at the peak of his career. Even if you haven’t paid close attention to The Weeknd’s discography, you’ve probably succumbed to the power of his irresistible chart-topping tops, of which his last three albums have all produced at least one. Sometimes his singles eclipse his albums, but that doesn’t mean he’s a “single artist”; he’s always very busy making A capital albums, and that’s exactly what Dawn FM is. It’s a concept album The Weeknd wrote during a period of depression during the 2020 pandemic; looking for an escape, he envisioned a fantasy world where everyone is stuck in traffic, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and the only radio station available is fantasy Dawn FM, which guides you to the light. It plays out like a sci-fi psychological drama, and the radio DJ telling it all is none other than Jim Carrey, whose roles in The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of the Flawless Spirit come to mind as I listen to his anxiety-provoking interjections on Dawn FM, which sits between The Weeknd’s happy pop and fake commercial jingles.

The album was produced by Oneohtrix Point Never (who has become a frequent contributor to Weeknd in recent years) and mainstream pop genius Max Martin (ditto), and OPN and Max have also handled most of the production of the album. album, alongside contributions from a few others including Calvin Harris (“I Heard You’re Married”), Swedish House Mafia (“Sacrifice”) and Beach Boys’ Bruce Johnston (“Here We Go … Again “, which Bruce also sings on). Tyler, the creator and Lil Wayne also show up for guest verses rapped on “Here We Go … Again” and “I Heard You’re Married,” respectively, and Quincy Jones tells a spoken word track. “Here We Go … Again” has allusions to The Weeknd’s first alt-R & B sound, but for the most part, Dawn FM continues on the path of retro-futuristic 80s pop that started in the 2020s After hours. The first single from the album was the recent “Take My Breath”, which was yet another example of The Weeknd’s ability to produce world-conquering singles, and it’s not the only magical moment on Dawn FM. An even better song is “Less Than Zero”, the last real song on the album before Jim Carrey’s lyrics coda, a jangly synthpop anthem helped by Max Martin that deserves to be The Weeknd’s next single. Other equally immediate moments come in the form of “Out of Time” assisted by OPN and “Don’t Break My Heart” assisted by OPN / Max and the synth-funk produced by Calvin Harris of “I Heard You ‘re Married “and the shaking electronics of” Is There Someone Else? ” provide their own sense of euphoria. Balancing the sugar-coated hooks, some of the tracks – especially the ones produced by OPN – favor something more abstract and weird. The album can be conceived of as a sort of escape, but it also can’t shake the feeling that there is still something to be escaped. It is ecstasy with an underlying feeling of dread.


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