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Album review: The Weeknd struggles with consistency on ‘Dawn FM’

The Lantern
The Weeknd performs in front of fans during the halftime show for Super Bowl 55 in Tampa, Florida Feb. 7, 2021. Credit: Courtesy of Martha Asencio Rhine/Tampa Bay Times via ZUMA Wire

Award-winning singer-songwriter The Weeknd has released his new album “Dawn FM” almost a year after his well-received “After Hours.”

Although “After Hours,” which featured hit songs such as “Blinding Lights” and “Save Your Tears,” went No. 1 on the Billboard charts after its March 2020 release, and “Blinding Lights” spent 90 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, making it the biggest Hot 100 song of all time , the Grammys did not give the album or any of its songs any nominations. Following this controversy, The Weeknd told The New York Times he would no longer allow his label to submit his music to the Grammys.

Since the release of “After Hours” and his attention-grabbing performance at last year’s Super Bowl, The Weeknd has been nothing short of a superstar. The Weeknd seems to be sticking to his ‘80s-inspired sound with his newest project narrated by Jim Carrey as the Disc Jockey for the fictional radio station, Dawn FM. Although The Weeknd clearly has talent and creativity, “Dawn FM” gets repetitive and inconsistent at points, making this project decent but far from great.

The project begins with an intro track, which serves as a nice buildup for the remainder of the album, but the following tracks, “Gasoline,” “How Do I Make You Love Me?” and “Take My Breath,” all sound far too similar. With synth-heavy instrumentals and repetitive drums, the vocal performances hardly recover the tracks.

That’s not to say the songs don’t have redeeming qualities, and The Weeknd easily curates catchy melodies within his songs. The problem is these melodies aren’t head-turning enough to save the tracks from being skippable.

What seemed to be rather lackluster in the first few tracks is temporarily fixed with “Sacrifice.” Although the instrumental is still flooded with synths and generic drums, The Weeknd is sonically at his best with this song. The chorus of the track is one of the highest points on the project, and it is sure to reel in any listener.

Following the intermission comes the slower, more passionate track, “Out of Time.” The Weeknd’s vocal harmonizations are demanding from the beginning of the track, and the song picks up each time the chorus is introduced.

The album seems to be on an upward trajectory as “Here We Go… Again (feat. Tyler, The Creator)” is yet another slow, melodic performance from The Weeknd. Although his verse is short, Tyler, The Creator fits perfectly on the song with his baritone voice blending well with the nonchalant feeling the track provides, making this another high point on the project.

After the stretch of impressive performances comes a disappointment, “Best Friends.” This track, like others at the beginning of the album, is surface-level and boring, making it a forgettable track. Unfortunately, that theme continues with “Is There Someone Else?” and “Starry Eyes,” as both are sonically pleasing but fail to bring anything new to the project or The Weeknd’s discography as a whole.

“Don’t Break My Heart” is another uninspired song focusing on the album’s major theme of heartbreak and failed relationships. Similar to the songs prior, this track leaves more to be desired. “I Heard You’re Married (feat. Lil Wayne)” actually features a strong performance from The Weeknd. However, Lil Wayne’s rap style seems out of place on this track, and his verse only drags the song down.

Luckily, “Dawn FM” ends on a high note. “Less Than Zero” is one of the strongest performances on the album. The Weeknd’s vocals and the euphonic instrumentals are some of the best the project has seen. Ending the project on this track is crucial, as most of the album features run-of-the-mill tracks that seem like B-sides.

The project features multiple high points, but tracks that seem much like the next plague the project in its entirety. Although The Weeknd’s talent is not up for debate, his inability to create new, unique sounds on this project consistently and stay true to the central theme holds this album back from being a contender for album of the year.

Rating: 2.5/5

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