Dawn FM

What a way to go out if this is the Weeknd's last goodbye.

Dawn FM is the fifth studio album by the Weeknd. The album is a sequel to his 2020 album After Hours, and it is almost entirely thematically contrasted with the latter as he outlined the album's basis as "purgatory"—a journey to the "light at the end of the tunnel. He didn't want the night to end on After Hours, singing on "Blinding Lights," "I'm running out of time/ 'Cause I can see the sun light up the sky," almost despising the rays of daylight. The light, however, has finally caught up with him on the sequel Dawn FM. Tesfaye has stated in interviews that the album is very much like listening to an adult contemporary radio station while stuck in traffic in a tunnel, only the tunnel is purgatory and the light at the end of the tunnel is death. Throughout the album, Jim Carrey's imaginary radio station "Dawn 103.5" serves as a recurring subject matter. "103.5" is said to be a reference to the well-known Toronto radio station Z103.5. ''You've been in the dark for much too long/It's time to go into the light/And embrace your fate with open arms,'' says Jim Carrey in the album's opening tune, “...We’ll be there to hold your hand and guide you through this painless transition.''

Following his After Hours era, which saw The Weeknd rampage around Las Vegas streets like a madman with bleeding bandages on his face, Dawn FM's album cover depicts The Weeknd as an old man. It represents the transition from After Hours to Dawn FM. It illustrates how the record altogether seems to be drifting away from the fun and towards contemplating mortality and death. Dawn FM closes with a poem named "Phantom Regret" – Jim Carrey peaking on how death is unavoidable and not to be frightened of the end. In a sense, the Weeknd is presented towards the end of his life, which explains why he appears aged.

It is probably his most imaginative work to date, as Abel travels from life to death under the guidance of Quincy Jones and Jim Carrey. While Abel had already delved into the realm of 80s synth-pop, notably in After Hour, Dawn FM is full-on 80s discotheque madness and we see Abel totally immersed in this sound. The Weeknd's artistic development is marked by this radio-themed concept album. Despite being debut albums, I believe that Kiss Land and Trilogy are his best works; yet, Dawn FM is where I believe we get to witness the true him. He pleaded to be "taken out of LA" and talked about the dark side of Holywood's glitzy and opulent lifestyle in After Hours. He became trapped in the deserted streets of Sin City after hours and was completely in the dark. In an interview, “It was too dark and sad, it wasn’t cathartic at all,” he talks about After Hours. “So I put that album down and created something more fantasy, more of an escape.” While the listeners totally feel the fantasy and happier since the tone is much more upbeat here, The Weeknd's nihilistic outbursts remain, but with far less cynicism than on After Hours. On ''Gasoline'' we see the hedonistic aspect of his personality as he sings ''It's five AM, I'm nihilist/I know there's nothing after this''

Lyrically, while he still gets caught in his selfish behavioral patterns, such as on "Sacrifice," with lyrics like "I don't wanna sacrifice for your love,/I try" he is becoming more mature. Nonetheless, he is much more mature and remorseful about his past. He's willing to go to any extent to be forgiven when in the past he would have fled. He is no longer afraid to show his vulnerable sides. In ''Is There Someone Else?'' he confesses to his lover that he ''don't want to be a prisoner to who I used to be'' and swears that he ''changed his ways for the better'' and asks his lover if there is someone else she is involved with other than him. And other songs like ''Don't Break My Heart'', he says ''I almost died in the discotheque'' because of heartbreak. This degree of maturity has never been witnessed on a Weeknd album before. He talks about his traumas and owns up to his mistakes. On the opening track of the same title of the album, He completely describes his journey into purgatory. "This part I do alone." is the first lyric of the song, and it symbolizes Abel's determination to confront the upcoming journey, no matter how or where it ends. Later, he says, "I'll take my lead, I'll take my lead on this road," emphasizing his acceptance of his fate. He almost appears to have anticipated a kind of dreadful afterlife. In the interlude "A Tale By Quincy," the renowned producer Quincy describes how his personal traumas have afflicted every relationship he's had. ''Looking back is a b*tch, isn’t it?” he chuckles. Abel, in a way, shares his commitment issues through this monologue-which is barely news. ''Whenever I got too close to a woman, I would cut her off/Part of it was vindictive, part of it was fear, but it was also totally subconscious,'' Jones says. The interlude then seamlessly transitions into ''Out of Time.'' where he sings ''There's so much trauma in my life/I've been so cold to the ones who loved me, baby'' and asks for forgiveness. 

The Telegraph 4/5

Dawn FM is his most ambitious album to date, and one that shows welcome signs of emotional and psychological growth.

The Independent 4/5

New record is a self-knowing contradiction to The Weeknd’s past celebrations of impermanence via one-night stands and sleazy affairs. Now he understands, even regrets, his flighty behaviour.

By the end of the album "Less Than Zero," he sings, "You tried your best with me, I know / I couldn't face you with my darkest truth of all." Abel gradually made peace with the fact that he is not capable of changing so his lover will always see him as less than zero. The record goes into this purgatory state in the album's final track, with the poem ''Phantom Regret,'' Jim Carrey speaking in your ear with such serene sounds in the foreground is therapeutic.''Heaven is for those who let go of regret,'' says Carrey. The poem concludes with a profound statement about respecting and loving oneself: