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by The Weeknd

Released January 7, 2022 via XO / Republic Records

Reviewed January 17, 2022

Top tracks (based on community voting)
Less Than Zero (50%), Take My Breath (46%), Sacrifice (41%)

After the release of “Take My Breath,” the lead single of Dawn FM, many expected The Weeknd to lazily stick to the synth pop sound he utilized on After Hours. Despite it being one of his most well-received projects, that same sound had gone from a breath of fresh air in 2020 to a mainstream staple coming into 2022. Releasing some B-Sides from After Hours didn’t sound like the best career path. In spite of the sonic similarities between these two albums, he is second to none in establishing separate atmospheres —exactly what you’d want in the “trilogy” these albums seem to be a part of. The Weeknd nosedives into waters he’s never explored musically with a full-on concept album, based around a hypothetical radio station (hosted by Jim Carrey), incorporating themes of life and death. While it is exciting seeing him explore this concept and base his entire album around a cohesive new wave sound, it also means Dawn FM’s songs become less memorable, especially with a near-hour runtime. All that’s left to wonder now is what The Weeknd will release as his third act; another synthpop-inspired effort that, just like Dawn FM, both sticks to its roots and builds upon them? Or failed nostalgia bait that only serves to underwhelm? – Alan (8.5/10)

The Weeknd and Oneohtrix Point Never strike ’80s throwback gold once again on Dawn FM. Their chemistry is absolute magic, with instrumentals that are some of the most infectiously lush in recent memory; perfectly utilizing that shimmering ’80s synth tone to create a world that feels one foot in the past, with the other set to the future. Drum patterns are contagious, the melodies sink into your head, and the heavy use of synth bass/guitar adds a groovy nature to many tracks. Tesfaye’s lyrics are par for the course for his standards, with a more self-aware presence than he has ever had. His voice is stunning as always, being able to ride an easy groove with a smooth vocal line or belt out a high that demands attention. Tesfaye seems more comfortable than ever, realizing that his voice is another texture to the mix, shifting his vocal style around this notion wonderfully. Some of the back half blends together, but Dawn FM does a great job with its ’80s throwback style. – Jared (8.5/10)

Dawn FM is the latest in a tandem of concept albums by Canadian superstar singer, The Weeknd, as he moves his tale from dusk to dawn on the penultimate record of his latest trilogy. To this point, he has doubled down on the synth-driven ’80s pop and R&B cosplay that allowed After Hours to take listeners by pleasant surprise in 2020. The apparent desire to transform that has manifested into this recent effort, which is refreshing to hear from someone of such commercial magnitude. Thankfully, Mr. XO is out to go a level higher, and prove the feats of After Hours were no fluke by improving the formula yet again. Formulaic production and songwriting become a strength in maintaining consistent momentum, without shorting creativity or inspiration. This album’s melodramatic, passionate, and eccentric protagonist leads the way into worthwhile story building. Most importantly, Dawn FM is vibrant and very fun, landing at a crossroads between casual and critical music listeners. No matter what you’re feeling about the latest run of his records, there's no denying The Weeknd has come a far cry away from the dawn of his career. – DeVán (8/10)

Dawn FM glides along on rails, shedding the shell of its predecessor and shimmering in a coat of synth-pop. It’s a sleek vehicle with dark wave interior and tasteful disco accents. The Weeknd swaps out the chintzy instrumentals of After Hours for a space-ier spectrum of ’80s motifs, and a studied tribute to a few of the King of Pop’s most definitive eras. Making ’80s New Wave radio the backdrop and concept of this second installment of a trilogy allows Tesfaye to connect the dots between his own artistry and those to which he’s often indebted. A few clumsy strokes of a pen and subpar feature, aside, The Weeknd’s vision is vividly realized and bolstered by a magnetic performance from Jim Carrey who plays our foreboding morning radio host on this transformative commute through purgatory. – Henny (7.8/10)

Dawn FM captures the inescapable feeling of romanticizing a person and time that no longer exist. Stylistically, the obvious synth-pop and new wave influences capture a bygone era. The Weeknd’s lyrics––although falling flat at times––are attached to buttery synths that parallel the bygone era of a love now dead, but that once flourished. He helplessly grabs for both a person and time that are dead as he knows them. The more that love fades from his fingers, we venture deeper into this album’s theme of loss. Instrumentals no longer provide the backdrop, but instead become the forefront, as an attempt to drown out that thought slowly crystallizing. With help from the great Oneohtrix Point Never, The Weeknd was able to tap into an era that was merely teased on After Hours to provide great time, and some easy listening. – Ben (Synth) (6.5/10)

Alan: 8.5/10 | Jared: 8.5/10 | Victoria: 8.2/10 | Pax: 8.1/10 | DeVán: 8/10

Hadley: 8/10 | Pablo: 8/10 | Dominick: 7.8/10 | Henny: 7.8/10 | Peter: 7.5/10

Cam: 7/10 | Daniel: 6.8/10 | Ben (Synth): 6.5/10


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