The Weeknd examines afterlife, spirituality in ‘Dawn FM’

Mackenzie Bookamer, News Editor

On Jan. 7, The Weeknd christened the year with the release of his fifth studio album entitled “Dawn FM.” His previous full-length release, “After Hours,” was a massive success, and I often found myself playing the songs on repeat because I couldn’t get enough of them. “Dawn FM” starkly contrasts from previous work by offering a counter perspective to the more cheerful mood characteristic of other releases.

“Dawn FM” is centered around a pseudo-radio station that transports listeners through purgatory. Only The Weeknd can make something as eerie as purgatory seem like a spiritual oasis. The opening track features a brief intro by The Weeknd, transitioning into a monologue by the album’s narrator, Jim Carrey. Carrey says, “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. Scared? Don’t worry.” This imagery of liberation is an integral point of the album’s concept and is repeated in multiple tracks throughout. 

What makes the message of “Dawn FM” so powerful is the seamless transition between tracks. It feels more like recounting a personal story as opposed to performing disjointed tracks. I believe this is where the genius of the album is seen, as the listener feels that they are taken on a journey from the opening to the closing track, all along being serenaded by the smooth vocals of The Weeknd. 

“Dawn FM” also features a spoken track by musical icon Quincy Jones and accompaniments by Tyler, the Creator and Lil Wayne. Jones’ track on “Dawn FM” centers around him reflecting on lessons learned. This introspection mirrors the entire album, encouraging listeners to reflect on the past as they journey through purgatory. 

The Weeknd masterfully turns his art into poetry and extends his creativity from musical endeavors to strong storytelling. He urges listeners to critically think about global events and work to dismantle harmful aspects of life grievances — namely, materialism and its effect on humans. The track “Every Angel is Terrifying” trivializes human life and tries to prepare the listener for what is coming: “the exotic, bizarre and beautiful world of ‘after life’ and this is your invitation to enter. Critics say ‘after life’ makes your current life look like a total comatose snooze fest. It’s action-packed – the future of everyone’s fate.”

The album closes with a spoken track by Carrey, in which he says, “heaven’s for those who let go of regret and you have to wait here when you’re not all there yet.” The Weeknd is able to make an infamously ambiguous spiritual topic and present it in such a way that anyone can understand its complexities.

While seeming heavy, “Dawn FM” is a surprisingly easy listen. Engrossed in seamless transitions between tracks, listeners are at first unaware of the deep sentiments in the lyrics. There is much more beneath the synth sounds and the crooning vocals of The Weeknd. I discover a new detail each time I listen through. Next time you want to unwind and ponder the divine, tune into Dawn FM 103.5.

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