The Weeknd has released his new album Dawn FM, less than two years after he dropped his globe-conquering LP After Hours. That album arrived at the top of a pandemic, setting the blueprint for the escapist music that people needed during that time. As we go through yet another variant, The Weeknd doubles down on that strategy delivering a record that heads even further onto the dancefloor.
We've spent the weekend listening to the record and have compiled a ranking of all the songs (excluding interludes and spoken word tracks).
12. Don't Break My Heart
Don't Break My Heart is the sort of mid-tempo that just wouldn't have made the cut on After Hours. It's a middling cut that's not bad, just unremarkable. Starboy was filled with these sorts of songs, bloating what would've otherwise been an excellent album. This is the only time that Dawn FM comes even close to being mediocre.
11. Starry Eyes
Starry Eyes is a weighty, cinematic cut that does feel a little more like an interlude than a full song. Still, The Weeknd delivers some of his best vocals on the whole record here, floating above some profound synth work. Starry Eyes levitates the album to a different plain even if it may not stand up by itself.
10. Best Friends
Best Friends may be the closest we get to Trilogy-era Weeknd on this album. The stabbing synths are reminiscent of his more urban work while the lyrics take us back to the dark, twisted loverboy The Weeknd used to paint himself as. "You don't wanna have sex as friends no more," he sings as he wrestles with his own desire.
9. I Heard You're Married (Feat. Lil Wayne)
Dawn FM delves into '80s synthwave more so than After Hours to the point where it sounds outright vintage. I Heard You're Married is one of the most '80s-tinged cuts on the album and it's slick-as-hell. He slides over the retro beat of neon synths and 808s as he sings, "can't be your side bitch." The most surprising thing here though may be Lil Wayne's guest verse which takes him completely out of his comfort zone and showcases his unwavering versatility.
8. Is There Someone Else?
The beats across this whole record are spectacular and the chopped vocal at the top end of Is There Someone Else? is an excellent example of that. It's so buttery that it almost manages to be smoother than The Weeknd's own vocals. The whole song feels scientifically engineered to sound like bliss from start-to-finish and while it doesn't have the excitement of some of the more upbeat moments it's a reminder that The Weeknd is untouchable even when he's flatlining.
7. Out Of Time
We haven't heard a ballad like this out of pop music for a very long time. It delves deep into Michael Jackson's '80s catalogue, dimming the lights and casting a spotlight on The Weeknd's balladeering. He reckons with a love that has moved on, begging her to come back but ultimately realising he's left his run too long. Past Weeknd songs would've taken this into a dark, demonised place but Out Of Time sounds remarkably peaceful.
6. How Do I Make You Love Me?
How Do I Make You Love Me? is the point that Dawn FM takes flight. He directs us onto the dancefloor in a flurry of rave-ready synths that are tailor-made for sweaty club floors. Max Martin and Oscar Holter collide with Swedish House Mafia and Oneohtrix Point Never here which is a collaboration that makes absolutely no sense on paper and yet works expertly. It's rooted in the pop basics but the collaboration is both experimental and festival-ready. Genius.
5. Take My Breath
Take My Breath, the album's lead single was somewhat overshadowed by the After Hours singles that were still doing big numbers. It finally gets its moment here with an anthemic extended version that effortlessly bleeds on from How Do I Make You Love Me? It may not have the thunderous chorus that Blinding Lights does but it's a slick ear worm that really makes sense in the context of the album.
Swedish House Mafia unite with Martin, Holter and OPN here on the album's most obvious big single. It's a dark, wobbly cut that brings The Weeknd's most confident performance. There's an ego to his delivery here that really takes it to another level as he shows off how far he's come as a popstar. The "Ah ooh" runs are particularly thrilling.
3. Here We Go...Again (Feat. Tyler, The Creator)
This may be the only song on the album without any beats behind it but Dawn FM's most intimate moment is also one of its finest. The Weeknd slides along in a comfortable vocal pocket, spitting bars like he does on his best urban moments. It's a candlelit ballad that's an unexpected oasis in the midst of the album. It's also nice to hear Tyler embrace a mainstream moment and really sink his teeth in with a pop-friendly verse.
When The Weeknd's voice comes in on Gasoline, it's a disorienting experience. This is the first true song on the record and yet he sounds almost unrecognisable. By doing that though he immediately disarms expectations and propels you into this dimly-lit, distorting world of demonic dance music. The chorus gives heavenly relief while the verses pull you back down into the rubble. It's so dramatic that it's camp.
1. Less Than Zero
The Weeknd has his fair share of euphoric album closers but this one easily takes the cake. Less Than Zero is a gorgeous collaboration with Martin and Holter - the trio at the absolute peak of their game. It combines easily listening acoustics with hypnotic synths to create a whirlpool of emotion. It cruises at a comfortable pace and yet it snips at your heartstrings with every turn. The Weeknd's voice is spectacular and the melodies are so addictive that they're hard to believe. There's no scenario where this song doesn't become a massive hit.