By Emma Weidmann | Personal editor
“Dawn FM” by The Weeknd is a true concept album. The album is meant to be an hour-long radio show on an imaginary station, 103.5 Dawn FM, and opens with an atmospheric introduction by the station’s host, the voice of Jim Carrey.
Carrey narrates several spoken word intermissions on the album. In these talking parts, The Weeknd’s love for Michael Jackson becomes very clear. 1982’s “Thriller” is heavily referenced in the final track, “Phantom Regret by Jim,” a poem read by Carrey, while Vincent Price’s voice can be heard in the background. Even Quincy Jones, famous collaborator of Michael Jackson, reads a spoken interlude, “A Tale by Quincy”. Other songs, like “Sacrifice,” echo Jackson’s signature sound and chord progressions.
Besides the influence of the “King of Pop”, the album takes its 1980s sound in an even broader sense with its brutal use of synth. The Weeknd is massively popular with Gen Z, those whose parents listened to 80s music as it came out. Albums that take advantage of nostalgia reflect an interesting trend in Gen Z listening habits in that music is planted equally in the past and the present. It is considered quirky and unique by younger audiences compared to more modern pop hits due to the nostalgia for their parents’ music it brings. However, it’s so heavily influenced that the only truly unique parts of it may be the lyrical content.
Much of the album dwells on morbid and existential subjects – primarily the transition from life to death. In fact, the album’s title functions as a metaphor for the lyrical content, with dawn being a time of transition between night and day. “Dawn FM” is an exploration of purgatory, a state of neither here nor there.
The transition is a major element of the album. Many songs blend into each other, simultaneously creating an incredibly cohesive listening experience and an album with very little variety or standout tracks.
One thing that stands out is a single line in the song “Every Angel is Terrifying”. In it, a phone number is given that one could call to order a tape, similar to an infomercial. The number is 1(800)-444-4444, which for any listener in Texas will remind them of a particular law firm advertisement. In an album that takes itself so seriously, it was an unexpected break from immersion to remember dramatic lawyer commercials, however clearly unintentional.
All compliments and criticisms aside, “Dawn FM” is both a great album and a really weird album. It sounds like the kind of project that fans will either love or hate, both for its creepiness and unsettling energy, and for the similarity of its songs. It seems like the kind of album that’s so avant-garde, so weird, that listeners will feel like they’d look stupid not to like it. Nobody wants to look like they don’t understand a piece of art, but “Dawn FM” is hard to appreciate without suspending their own personal feelings on topics like death, mortality, and even their religion.