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The Weeknd has returned with a new full-length project that, though still relying on an 80’s pastiche like on 2020’s After Hours, is a relatively consistent and enjoyable listen. He taps into a relatable pallet of anti-social feelings and sentimentalities resulting from the pandemic.
The Canadian singer released Dawn FM a week after New Years Day as the first installment in what is claimed to be a trilogy of albums orbiting a similar style. In using the concept of the “radio station album” — hearkening back to early Queens of the Stone Age, Del the Funky Homosapien, or even more recently Vince Staples’ FM! — Dawn FM nicely incorporates some lighthearted interludes between the otherwise cold and love-sick pop songs that dominate the record. And that’s all thanks to fellow Canadian Jim Carrey, who, in a surprise cameo, serves as our “radio-host” across the 16-song tracklist.
“Now that all future plans have been postponed, and it’s time to look back on the things you thought you owned. Do you remember them well? Were you high or just stoned?” Carrey recites in an almost evangelical soliloquy on the final track “Phantom Regret by Jim”. This track serves well as a way to convey COVID-19 related themes of loss, anxiety, and both emotional uneasiness and neediness.
Highlights of this record include the groovy Michael Jackson-inspired tracks “Sacrifice,” and “Out of Time,” as well as the irresistibly catchy, dark synthpop on “Gasoline.” There’s also the pathologically jealous ballad “Is There Someone Else?,” the instrumental of which sounds like it could come right off of Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreaks.
However, in agreement with the name of this record, it isn’t all sunshine across Dawn FM. A few duds stand out in the tracklist, including the unimpressive “I Heard You’re Married” which features a grating verse from Lil Wayne alongside a nearly pulseless instrumental that is only kept somewhat alive by a measly bassline. The track that immediately follows, “Less Than Zero,” is also a weak point on the record, with its campy, generic guitar and run-of-the-mill lyrics.
Nevertheless, despite not sticking the landing entirely, Dawn FM is an album that is interesting in its relatability alongside its fidelity to a concept, all the while doing a favorable service to the styles it revives from the 80s. This record may be reinventing the wheel in more ways than one, but it still manages to add a contemporary accent to the whole thing that makes it a catchy, worthwhile listen.
All in all, Dawn FM provides an enjoyable listen for a wide audience who are probably feeling the pandemic blues in a similar way to The Weeknd.