You’re listening to “103.5 Dawn FM”

After months of teasing that “the dawn is coming,” the Weeknd’s fifth studio album is finally here, marking a new chapter of the hit-maker’s career. “You’ve been in the dark for way too long, it’s time to walk into the light and accept your fate with open arms,” recites Dawn FM narrator, Jim Carrey. That’s exactly what this album does. The 16 track project is filled with ’80s influences and shimmering pop styles, a direction that was teased on his last album, After Hours, but fully incorporated into Dawn FM. On his new project, the Weeknd shows us that what’s old is new again. It allows listeners to step away from the outside world and get lost in the sounds of music with guest appearances by Lil Wayne and Tyler the Creator. 

The opening and title track, “Dawn FM,” opens with his calming vocals while introducing listeners to the station “103.5 Dawn FM,” setting the tone for the way the rest of the album is formatted. At first, I just thought that this was a mediocre album that could possibly grow on me, but maybe not, until a stroke of genius hit me. Think of the album as one giant autobiography, a story of enlightenment through music. Through lyrics and narrations, he’s able to tell listeners about his past experiences in the dark, explaining how this music brought him light as he hopes it will for them, too.

Music holds so much importance to everyone, providing an escape for listeners and artists alike, and this album tells the story of the Weeknd’s life, perhaps acting as a coping mechanism. Through this album, the Weeknd tells tales of his love and loss, time alone and when he felt alone, and the trials and tribulations of never feeling good enough. Though the whole point of the album is that you’ve finally reached the light at the end of the tunnel, this light is death and endings. Although there are songs that are positive, the overpowering theme is that all good things must come to an end. His vulnerability allows anyone who has gone through similar struggles to have certain tracks to turn to in times of hurt.

“Is There Someone Else?” is production-wise the strongest song on the album, produced by one of my favorite producers, Tommy Brown (also known as TBHits). It reminds me more of his older songs rather than this new sound he attempted to incorporate into the album. It showed his versatility with genres; he can quickly switch between styles from track to track. My issue with this new genre and sound that he is trying to pioneer is that some of the tracks were forgettable or just strung together because they weren’t unique, and this poses a problem. “Gasoline” and similar tracks start off completely different from his past sound and even the new one, but quickly transfer back into the new.

I personally like his newer sound opposed to whatever robotic tone he attempts in the beginning. Though there are some unmemorable tracks on the album (“Starry Eyes” and “Every Angel is Terrifying”), the electro pop beats of other potential hits make up for those. A personal highlight for me was “Less Than Zero,” the penultimate track on the album. The song shows his personal struggle with self destruction and the lack of validation that he desires. The shimmering pop beats and haunting vocals set the tone for the track and provide a perfect close to the album. This close is a final track in the form of a speech by Jim Carrey. Carrey’s speech closes out this hour of “103.5 Dawn FM” and thanks the listeners for tuning in, which I think was executed perfectly.

As a whole, maybe it’s not his best work, and I still think it’s nearly impossible to top Starboy, but it was a strong effort that was executed extremely well. The production was consistently top tier, some of the beats were among his best, the features were extremely well chosen, and the story arc of it all was so well thought out. The album is worth a listen, but some tracks can easily be skipped over. If you don’t have time to listen to the whole album or don’t want to in case it ends up being a waste of time, put aside a few minutes for “Less Than Zero,” “Is There Someone Else?” and “How Do I Make You Love Me?” and maybe you too will “walk into the light.”