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THE WEEKND Dawn FM gets 8.5/10


The Weeknd

Dawn FM
XO and Republic Records

8.5/10

Dawn FM takes you on a journey of good and evil, of growth and regression and of heaven and hell.  It is vastly Abel Tesfaye’s most high-brow and cerebral album to date. In his previous albums After Hours, Starboy and Beauty Behind the Madness we grew used to songs about his face falling off from hedonism and unrequited love found in the wee hours of clubs, or how he puts it, about “almost dying in the discotheque,” and whilst we are still hearing about matters of the heart and pleasure-seeking, we are also privy to his thoughts on spirituality, existentialism, intergenerational trauma, self-destruction and reparation, and agency on the new album.

The album is comprised of 80s dance tracks, backed by a thumping funky beat; the golden string that brings everything together. The production, which was carried out by hit maker Max Martin and Oneohtrix Point Never (Uncut Gems, Good Time), makes sure things are perfectly disordered, that is, songs zig when you expect them to zag. Whilst this makes it much less likely that songs will reach the stardom of record breaking tracks like Blinding Lights – as a body of work, Dawn FM is more interesting than anything Tesfaye has done before.

Perhaps the most beautiful thing about Dawn FM is that it is equal measures organic spontaneity and being exact and deliberate, such is the level of detail and thought put into every part, but also the amount of impulse and instinct. The robust production makes it truly shimmer with electronic bliss, but this dreamy state is interrupted by moments of implosion and meandering disarray, like on the track Take My Breath which wanders off into a Daft Punk-esque world, or Starry Eyes which ends somewhere in the abyss.

The juxtaposition between dark and light in the music and the lyrics is a common thread throughout, but none more so than Out of Time as well as Gasoline, which somehow manages to be both eerie and pure joy at the same time. Lead songs Sacrifice and Take My Breath are the closest things to being certified pop hits but stray a little too much to reach the heights of previous formulated earworms like Can’t Feel My Face.

The album thematically is about going to the end, peering over and then stepping back into the light, and just like the unified thematics, the music is also his most cohesive body of work, each song bleeds into each other effortlessly, with enough difference and enough likeness for it to feel like a story. It’s an ‘album’ in the truest sense of the word, which is a rarity in this single-obsessed world.

Tesfaye has shown that he is a confident artist in his prime, prepared to do things his own way. He has unreservedly backed himself, and whilst doubling down on his retro nostalgic roots he has also managed to make a piece of work that is progressive, fresh, and completely loveable.

LARA FOX

 

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