Review: “Dawn FM” disappoints

Marley Roberson

More stories from Marley Roberson

Out Of The Park
March 8, 2023

Album cover courtesy of The Weeknd

“I felt that The Weeknd tried to incorporate so many unique elements that he failed to create a cohesive piece.”

The Weeknd’s new hit album, “Dawn FM,” has topped charts around the world, with over half a billion streams worldwide since its release on January 7th. The praise and hype surrounding this release was undeniable, so I listened to see if it lives up to its reputation.

The artist’s fifth studio album has been anticipated since it was first teased in May of 2021. The album is intended to give listeners the feeling of being stuck in traffic in a tunnel. Not just any tunnel, but purgatory. The Weeknd tries to capture the idle feeling of traffic, and compare it to how he interprets purgatory. Only in his metaphor, the light at the end of the tunnel is death.

Actor Jim Carrey provides frequent narration throughout the album, creating a radio broadcast feel that builds background to The Weeknd’s story throughout. He grapples with themes of life and death, tying in his own beliefs about them.

His album opens with “Dawn FM.” The song begins slowly with birds chirping and The Weeknd’s famous falsetto. Initially, I was underwhelmed. The vocals backed by a synthesizer didn’t strike me as anything particularly special or original. But as the narrator, Jim Carrey, welcomed me to 103.5 Dawn FM, I listened a little closer.

As a stand alone song, “Dawn FM,” is nothing special, but accompanied by the rest of the album, it serves its purpose of setting the serene mood of the early stages of the artist’s traffic jam. Overall, I’d only rate this song a 6/10.

The electronic dance style pop started to get repetitive with the next few songs,  “Gasoline,” “How Do I Make You Love Me?” and “Take My Breath.” I was having trouble distinguishing between songs. 

Objectively, these songs had a lot of artistic value, but I felt that The Weeknd tried to incorporate so many unique elements that he failed to create a cohesive piece. The three of these songs were all a 5/10.

At this point, the album had lost momentum and drifted too far from the original concept. The style shift of “Sacrifice” allowed for redemption and a clear change in tone. It opened with deeper notes, immediately distinguishing it from every previous song. This song was the first of the album that I’d ever consider adding to my own playlist, at a rating of 8/10.

“A Tale By Quincy,” had me on the edge of my seat with an interview from famous producer Quincy Jones. Jones’ upbringing left him struggling to form meaningful relationships with his kids, and women, after watching both his parents struggle to provide for their kids. This interlude reflects similar struggles The Weeknd has faced. Its effect on the album earns it an 8/10.

The only artistic value in the next several songs came from the artist’s collaboration with Tyler, the Creator. 

Tyler, the Creator’s deep voice complemented The Weeknd’s falsetto in “…Here We Go… Again”, blending in a way that had me bobbing my head.

The first song to give me the feeling of purgatory was, “Every Angel is Terrifying.”  Its serene narration backed by fairytale-sounding tracks finally gave me insight into the album’s lore. The song was interrupted by the radio station host and turned into an ad for his own album, which made me feel like I’d wasted the money I had spent on ad free Spotify Premium. 

With so many ups and downs, I had mixed feelings about a lot of the songs, but The Weeknd accomplished something special with “Less Than Zero.” It’s groovy, it’s catchy, and it builds into a satisfying chorus. This 10/10 song made me understand the artist’s huge fan base.

The Weeknd wrapped up his album with his 16th and final song, “Phantom Regret by Jim.” This song has a sad tone and sounds like something that would be played at a funeral, contrasted with an electronic 80’s style synth.

It’s undoubtedly original and creative, but it fails to completely tie together the album. 

I love the idea of the whole album, but the execution is not there. I was hoping for the immersive experience everyone had praised him for, but his take on the afterlife did not translate to me. His attempts to blend his new thought provoking style with his previous, fast pace hits leaves him with a disjointed 6/10 album.