“Dawn FM” sets itself up as part of a legendary trilogy

The album cover for Dawn FM. The album deals with themes of post-death acceptance, and the aged photo of Abel Tesfay symbolizes that.

Phot courtesy of @theweeknd Instagram

The album cover for Dawn FM. The album deals with themes of post-death acceptance, and the aged photo of Abel Tesfay symbolizes that.

By Jasper Bernstein, Observations Editor

Album trilogies aren’t a new thing – artists from Bob Dylan to Kanye West have made them over the decades. Through album trilogies, an artist has an opportunity to tell a story through three consecutive albums. With “Dawn FM”, The Weeknd has the chance to produce one of the best album trilogies of all time.

Abel Tesfay, known more commonly as The Weeknd, got his career start with 2011’s “House of Balloons”. The mixtape, which was released for free online, was part of his first trilogy. 2012’s “Trilogy”, additionally containing 2011’s “Thursday” and 2012’s “Echoes of Silence”, was a huge success, peaking at #4 on the Billboard 200. 

After “Trilogy”, Tesfay has released five studio albums, capping it off with the newly released “Dawn FM”. When addressing his Twitter followers, Tesfay asked “I wonder… did you know you’re experiencing a new trilogy?” Fans speculate that this is proof that “Dawn FM” is the second piece in the trilogy, with 2020’s “After Hours” and a future album serving as the bookends. 

“Dawn FM” isn’t an ordinary album. Its production stands out not just for the incredible blend between vocals and music, but the transitions between songs. Each song connects to the next, making the album feel like an 80s club mix. The beat never stops throughout the album, with each song ending in a way that leads into the next song. It’s a truly atmospheric experience, one that transports the listener better than any album in recent history.

It isn’t just the connectedness that makes this album into such an experience. With narration from Jim Carrey, “Dawn FM” is able to explore nihilistic themes through poetry. Throughout the album, we see Carrey act as a radio DJ, introducing songs for the fictional “103.5 Dawn FM.” The flow of the album works when presented as a radio station, and Carrey’s narration is a top highlight. Carrey is truly able to push the limits of nihilism within an album, especially with lines like “Consider the flowers, they don’t try to look right / They just open their petals and turn to the light.”

The album works given the flow of songs together, making it hard to appreciate each song individually, without listening to it in the greater scheme of the album. That necessary connectedness can both be seen as a pro and a con – it’s good that the album flows so well, but “Dawn FM” is not an album intended for the modern playlist-era. 

“Gasoline”, among the few strong individual songs, is one of the best. The expertly produced song deals with receiving comfort during depressive moments. By showing the lows with lyrics like “I know there’s nothing after this,” Tesfay circles back to comfort effortlessly with “just hold me close / make me believe there’s more to live.” This second track in the album sets up the theme of post-death acceptance effortlessly, which Tesfay explores throughout the rest of the album.

The Weeknd only has two features on “Dawn FM” (aside from Carrey), but both are done well. Tyler, the Creator is brought in on “Here We Go… Again” for one short (but meaningful) rap verse. “You gon’ sign this prenup” is a hard hitting lyric in the end of his verse, one that deals with the theme of loss and lust. The feature could’ve used a bit more of Tyler’s usual charisma, but his expert lyricism makes up for it. 

The second to last track, “Less than Zero,” is a highlight. It expertly strikes a duality between a catchy hook and depressing lyrics, with lines like “I’ll always be less than zero / You tried your best with me, I know.” Lyrics like this are what make the album so great, and the Weeknd does a mind-bending job putting them behind disco-esque songs.

“Phantom Regret by Jim” is the perfect closing song for the album, and is one of the best final songs on any album in recent years. It’s more poem than song, and lyrics like “were you ever in tune with the song life was humming?” summarize the album. “Dawn FM” has a character arc for Tesfay, one of acceptance, and this track demonstrates that. It pushes some of the theme on others, making it clear that the same reflection should be done through the ears of the listener.

All in all, “Dawn FM” is an incredible project by The Weeknd. Some of the tracks fall short on their own, but the connectedness of the collective makes up for it. The album feels consistent and cohesive, and the lyricism is Tesfay’s best. Combined with “After Hours”, this trilogy, assuming Tesfay can have similar success with his next album, has a chance at being one of the best.