The Weeknd fans vividly remember a tweet from the artist saying, “XO #1…the dawn is coming.”
Confusion followed when he posted visuals of himself wearing all black clothing and a face prosthetic impersonating an older man. He then posted musical teasers such as snippets of his hit single “Take My Breath.”
His approach to introducing the new track clearly worked. The song debuted at number seven on the global Spotify chart with 4.861 million streams.
Early in the new year he dropped his fifth studio album, Dawn FM.
With more than 60 million streams on Spotify, The Weeknd topped the charts in 10 countries within the first 24 hours. Fans and curious listeners were introduced to 16 new tracks.
Following the two-year run and storytelling of his previous album, After Hours, Dawn FM introduces listeners to a new ‘character’ and experiences in an intriguing, storytelling manner.
The album follows an older man who takes listeners through his life journey using sounds and rhythms replicating a 1980s radio station.
The Weeknd showcases his creativity by collaborating with various entertainers.
For example, actor Jim Carrey is featured serving as a narrator taking listeners through a metaphysical and existential trip.
Carrey sets the tone on the first track called, “Dawn FM,” by soothingly saying phrases such as, “You are now listening to 103.5 Dawn FM,” and “You’ve been in the dark for way too long, it’s time to walk into the light and accept your fate with open arms.”
A melodic rhythm and birds chirping softly in the background prompt listeners to feel at ease while listening to Carrey’s voice.
The thematic album is also told through the narration of record producer, songwriter and musician Quincy Jones. Through Jones, in “A Tale by Quincy,” the listener learns this is an audio journey exploring how early trauma and dysfunction can impact relationships later in life.
Carrey then smoothly transitions into the song “Out of Time,” using the same background rhythms.
“There’s still more music to come before you’re completely engulfed in the blissful embrace of that little light you see in the distance,” Carrey says, further engraving the idea of having lived life and moving into the afterlife.
The middle songs and narrations of Dawn FM provide feelings of hopefulness while still touching on the idea of existentialism and uncertainty. They also introduce the idea that redemption and change are possible but are hard to grasp.
From song to song, The Weeknd juggles from wanting to rectify his past faults to succumbing to the man he’s tried hard not to be.
For example, on “Best Friends,” he sings about past toxic love and not wanting to repeat old habits before the background music transitions into “Is There Someone Else?“, where he admits he doesn’t believe he deserves someone loyal but he’s working on it.
By the last song, “Less Than Zero,” he seems to conclude that he’s incapable of change with the lyrics, “I’ll always be less than zero, you tried your best with me,” and “I know I couldn’t face you with my darkest truth of all.”
Dawn FM then wraps up with the final narration of the album “Phantom Regret by Jim,” where Carrey asks questions like “How many grudges did you take to your grave, when you weren’t liked or followed, how did you behave?”
The Weeknd has shown his ability to use powerful lyrics in both song and narration to tell another story in his growing library of work.
This album is worth a listen not only for its funky 80s rhythms, but for the story of one man’s lifelong inner battles.