Starboy is starting off the year with a new universe. The Weeknd, also known as Abel Tesfaye, has announced a new album called Dawn FM, that it’s coming Jan. 7, and that it’s packed with an unusual cast of collaborators. There are a wide variety of musical styles: Quincy Jones, Lil Wayne, Oneohtrix Point Never, and Tyler, The Creator. And there’s also Jim Carrey.
There’s a new video promo which promises a “new sonic universe,” as The Weeknd gets into a car crash, is dragged away by cult members in robes, suddenly ages, appears in a club, is approached by a cult leader, and appears confused. And then a DJ welcomes the viewer to 103.5 Dawn FM, noting that “you’ve been in the dark way too long. It’s time to walk into the light, and accept your fate with open arms.”
There are some hints about what the album will sound like, most notably it’s lead single “Take My Breath.” Opening with a riff that sounds a little like the “Edge of Seventeen” sample Destiny’s Child used on “Bootylicious,” the track hits that midpoint between the classic dance-pop produced by Quincy Jones — particularly Michael Jackson’s 1987 step into a harder edge, Bad — and the at-times unworldly electronic sounds of Oneohtrix Point Never, who readers may also know as the composer of Good Time and Uncut Gems.
It’s a type of music that The Weeknd has made before. He’s covered Bad’s “Dirty Diana,” after all. But “Take My Breath” sounds like an elevation of that sound.
The track’s video has a setting as interesting as its sound. Taking place at an underground rave where everyone’s dressed in their Matrix/Blade best leather, the video shows people relying on oxygen tanks during their revelry, breathing into their masks. Masks have a long history at raves, but these seem to have some sort of euphoric drug in them, which works out great for The Weeknd until a woman starts choking him with her braid.
Getting beaten up in his music videos is nothing new for The Weeknd. In an interview with GQ from August 2021 where he discussed Dawn F.M., he said the regular violence visited upon his own person in his videos is ‘me removing The Weeknd from Abel. I think a lot of people are like, “Oh, he’s suicidal.’ It’s not that. I think it’s me removing The Weeknd from the world, but he still finds his way back.”
In that same profile, Tesfaye plays the author, Mark Anthony Green, a few tracks off the album from when it was still a work in progress.
The music hit the studio like a Mack truck. The new project is packed with party records. Like real-deal, illuminated-white-tiles-on-the-floor party records. Quincy Jones meets Giorgio Moroder meets the best-night-of-your-fucking-life party records. Not anachronistic disco stuff. (Not “cosplay,” as Abel put it.) That sort of retro thing is having a moment right now in pop music, but these records are new. Sweaty. Hard. Drenched-suit, grinding-on-the-girl/boy-of-your-dreams party records.
“It’s the album I’ve always wanted to make,” Abel said. That statement would linger in my brain for days. As did the music. It became nearly impossible to find something else to listen to. Everything else sounded soft. Or didn’t groove enough. Or felt too happy. Or too sad. It was clear to me that this isn’t just the album The Weeknd has always wanted to make; it’s the album we’ve always wanted him to make.
That sounds quite promising. Still no idea what Jim Carrey is going to be doing.