Dawn FM: experimental and ethereal

Grace Netherton, Copy Editor

At some point in many artists’ lives, there comes an experimental phase. They tap into their inner creative spirit and take a gamble, either flopping or making a mark in their respective industry. A couple examples include Glass Animals, who started 2020 with the psychedelic induced flashback known as “Dreamland”, and Billie Eilish, who brought on a hard take on life with “Happier Than Ever”. This year, it was The Weeknd who delivered rich vibes into the music field with their new album “Dawn FM”.

The piece opens up with a serene first track, slowly rising into an electro-pop eighties theme. “Dawn FM ‘’ (the song) sets the scene for the rest of the album, bringing in a radio talk show host played by Jim Carrie. Through this, he reveals that “Dawn FM’’ is a radio station designated for those between life and death. The rest of the album continues this theme with commercial breaks about the afterlife and brief cut-ins of the radio jingle, “You’re listening to 103.5, Dawn FM”. Because of this unique style, the tracklist is best listened to from beginning to end rather than putting it on shuffle.

A person can listen to one song slip into another without realizing it thanks to how these transitions have been set up. Some songs stand alone as catchy bops with hints of Abel (The Weeknd)’s characteristic flare, like “Less Than Zero” and “Sacrifice”. There are also intermission pieces like a brief story on the radio, which is done in the middle piece “A Tale By Quincy”. At the end, Jim Carrie comes back in with a poem presented in a way Dr. Suess would write if he had pursued adult themes. Titled “Phantom Regret by Jim”, the simple rhymes do not dilute the real message: make peace and come to terms with regrets.

He ends the trip on a hopeful note, bringing tears to listener’s eyes as he directly speaks to them. This isn’t a song like the rest of the album, although The Weeknd does play in an emotional tune in the background. The point of this part is to make others question and ponder their life decisions. Are they satisfied with how things have turned out? He concludes by guiding the listener to acceptance. “God knows life is chaos,” Jim says,” but he made one thing true. You gotta unwind your mind, train your soul to align, and dance ‘til you find that divine boogaloo.”

Another aspect of this album is its music videos. Abel has been known for his party-hard music videos like “Blinding Lights”. In contrast, these new ones contain sensitive and graphic imagery that some would consider to be too much. The artist is depicted as an old man throughout the two or three that are out so far, showing that he is the one transitioning from life to death.

While currently there is no real known meaning for the videos, it seems this is a giant metaphor for Abel looking back on himself and remorsing his past actions. This is especially highlighted in “Gasoline”. Shortly after a car crash, older Abel is suddenly transported to an intense party scene reminiscent of the lifestyle he sang about in the past. In the middle of the crowd, he finds his younger self. However, younger Abel perceives his future as unrecognizable and disfigured, prompting a fight between the two. This interaction solidifies the shift in mood between the artist’s old music and what he’s presenting now.

Overall, The Weeknd has come a long way in his musical journey. He has plenty of growth left in him, and this project highlights that. Maybe he regrets some of the decisions he’s made in the past, especially in his early days, but he has always had an ashamed look on his lifestyle. Now, it seems, regret is truly changing him. At the very least, it’s had an impact on his art and maybe on his fans and listeners in turn.