THE FAMOUS BROODER AND POP’S REIGNING ANTIHERO BRINGS ON THE SMOLDER AND SPARK IN NEW RETRO, ‘80S-FUELED EXPLORATIVE ALBUM DAWN FM
BY AMANDA MCCOY
Modern pop music knows no shortage of kings: pretty boy faces with silky dance moves, belting out billowy bubblegum or lamenting love gone wrong. Canadianborn singer-songwriter Abel Tesfaye, aka The Weeknd, however, was never a Bieber type, instead climbing to the top of the charts with soliloquies about addiction, longing, and escapism. He first entered the music space anonymously, under his current stage name, and kept his identity secret for the first bit of his career, even after his early mixtape, dubbed House of Balloons, garnered the attention of the New York Times and industry goliaths like Drake. The Weeknd eventually became pop’s beloved antihero, a stark juxtaposition to the Maroon Fives of the world, and despite the lack of sugar, his melancholia, dark paradoxes, and ketamine-fueled psychedelia landed him a spot on the world’s largest stage: the Super Bowl 2021. Donning fiery red sequins, he invited the world on a blustery ride through his soul.
The Canadian crooner’s fifth studio album, Dawn FM, dropped in January, and critics have lauded the 16-track LP as The Weeknd’s most cohesive story yet. It’s
a concept album that the artist described plays like “listening to a kind of adult contemporary radio station as you sit in a traffic jam in the tunnel, only the tunnel is purgatory and the light at the end of the tunnel is death.” Heavy, introspective, and wildly existential are par for the course for the “Can’t Feel My Face” singer, but musically the album embraces a featherlight disposition that’s, as usual, heavy on the ‘80s influences, which perhaps makes the nihilistic undertones even more haunting. The opener, “Gasoline,” explores a toxic romantic relationship in which the singer begs to be set on fire, while he helplessly falls for a “shattered soul” in “Starry Eyes.” The album is loaded with guest power, including producer credits by resident hit-machine Max Martin (Britney Spears’ “Baby One More Time”) and electronic experimentalist Oneohtrix Point Never, plus Jim Carrey as the radio broadcast’s DJ.