We live in an age of recycling. Everything has been done before so people and artists are now reaching back into the past to pull out familiar feelings and adding their own twists to it. Everyone is guilty of it, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It shows how far we have and haven’t come in terms of sounds and feelings. That “I’ve heard this before!” feeling is all over The Weeknd’s newest album Dawn FM.
Now, this might be called blasphemy, but this is the closest Abel has sounded to Michael Jackson that I’ve ever heard. Over these 80’s synth-heavy beats it’s almost impossible not to hear it and think of the comparison. “Take My Breath” is a prime example. It sounds like if MJ didn’t work with Quincy in the 80’s and started making power ballads with OMD or Soft Cell. To go back to my earlier point though, this isn’t a bad thing. Since the 80’s have come and gone so artists can now see what did and didn’t work and put their own new twists to a sound we’re already used to. This song in particular is like an 80’s song on steroids. Abel’s voice is towering over these strong driving basslines and synth stabs. He doubles his vocals to cut through and be heard over the instrumentation. It’s almost impossible not to bob your head to the music, the groove is infectious. “Sacrifice” is straight up Justice inspired, no way to hear anything else. That distorted guitar that’s the backbone of the beat sounds like it was an unused version of “Alakazam !” In my opinion, the first half of this album, which is every song before “A Tale By Quincy” is the low point in the album. These songs are good, but not good enough to make me listen to them on their own.
The album immediately picks up after the interlude “A Tale By Quincy.” Right immediately after, actually. There’s a piano part that beautifully transitions into my personal favorite track on the album: “Out of Time.” Abel alternates between singing in a sleepy tone to an angelic falsetto in the pre-hook that leaves you only wanting more. Two claps signal that the hook is coming in and you’re thrusted into a world full of grooves that you didn’t know you needed. During the hook, whenever Abel says the title of the song, his vocals double and a synth chord plays behind his vocals and it’s so soothing to the ear. The outro is insane as well. His background vocals repeat the title until they fade out. “Here We Go…Again” is another highlight for me for two reasons. One, Abel sound his best when he’s bragging about how good he is at sex. Something about that topic brings the angelic vocals from his soul. When the chorus comes in and the original beats goes away and the xylophone (?) comes in to match his vocals, I melt.
The second reason deserves it’s own block because this has been a problem of mine for quite some time. There’s an awful Tyler, The Creator feature on this song. That isn’t a surprise though, when Tyler is on songs he didn’t produce, he usually sucks. Those two Snoh Aalegra songs, “Castaway” by Yuna, “NOIZE” by Jaden, and a bunch of other songs he brought down because he presence isn’t needed. This song is a great example, the way he comes in on the song is so brash to how soft and sweet the rest of the song was. Plus, his vocals seemed to be mixed differently than the rest of the song so he seems louder than Abel’s vocals and the beat. One day I hope artists realize that Tyler sounds really good over his own beats, but he needs guidance on other beats. He’s almost there, but not there quite yet.
To wrap up the album, there’s a string of really good songs. “Is There Someone Else?” sounds like it came right out of Tron: Legacy and you’re cruising on the digital plane. Then towards the end of that song it seems like they sampled the song within the song with these chopped-up chipmunk vocals! Then (!!!) the same synth that was prevalent throughout that song is used, but in a different way on the next track “Starry Eyes!” Wow. Ending the album with “Less Than Zero” was a shock to me. This very basic sounding guitar loop is the backbone of this track, but this synth arpeggio comes in while he’s singing that signals the chorus is coming and boy, does it come in with some force! Yet another infectious groove, Abel’s vocals are echoed like he’s singing into a void, maybe to signify what the song is about: being less than zero. It’s almost as if he’s yelling to someone that doesn’t want to care about him anymore. But by the end he realizes it’s a fruitless attempt and fades away.
This is an alright album, if you’re already a fan of synth heavy 80’s power-ballads then you’ll love this album. If you like this sound and want to get more of it from the source, try OMD’s self-titled album, Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret by Soft Cell, or anything in that 80’s new wave movement.
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