The Weeknd – Dawn FM and… The Great Gatsby? – Album Meaning

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The Weeknd - Dawn FM
The Weeknd - Dawn FM

Love lost, forlorn, crestfallen, The Weeknd is back with the new album Dawn FM. The Weeknd – Dawn FM is a studio album from Canada’s Abel Tesfaye and producer Oneohtrix Point Never (Daniel Lopatin). With narration features from Jim Carrey and Quincy Jones, and musical features from Swedish House MafiaTyler, The Creator, and Lil Wayne.

The Weeknd returns with Dawn FM and musically sounds like a continuation of his previous 2020 album After Hours. The Weeknd – Dawn FM is a heavily 80’s inspired sound; a healthy mix of Synthpop, funk, and R&B. Another 80’s revival album which is a big risk to take.

The Weeknd – Dawn FM Album

Canada’s The Weeknd has seen major success. After Hours was an incredible album, raw, dark, and honest thematically. He is an amazing singer who looks to prove this over, and over again. From his first 2011 mixtape House of Balloons, his great potential was highly evident and he lives up to it. On Dawn FM he sings on the beat and his voice matches the sound perfectly. The Weeknd and producer OPN have a groove that they work seamlessly in.

Here we go again
Life’s a dream
‘Cause it’s never what it seems
But you’d rather love and lost with tears
Than never love at all
So here we go again
-The Weeknd

This album shows more funk but perhaps less heart. The Weeknd in Dawn FM continues the sound from After Hours but entirely changes the theme this time. This album is about being forlorn over love lost. A love is gone but one still has feelings for it. The object on this album, a woman, has left Abel, he still seeks her, but both know it’s wrong, and she has moved on.

I wasn’t actually in love, but I felt a sort of tender curiosity
-The Great Gatsby

Thematically, this album should be compared to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 classic novel The Great Gatsby.

Meaning and Theme – The Weeknd – Dawn FM and… The Great Gatsby?

The Great Gatsby, in its very simplest narrative, is a story of a guy who moves to a wealthy area and befriends some rich people but one of the rich people is hung up on a woman. We won’t be going deeper into that because the story is not as important as the theme, in this case. In its narrative themesThe Great Gatsby focuses on the hollowness of rich living and yearning, but never had, the love of your life.

On the hollowness of rich living, one can hear many callbacks to this theme on the previous After Hours album. From Snowchild: “Twenty mill’ mansion, never lived in it, Zero edge pool, never dipped in it, Superstar neighbor in my business.” Gatsby is a rich person in a huge house but doesn’t find happiness there. He tries to fill the mansion with people, parties but is still empty metaphorically. “You see I usually find myself among strangers because I drift here and there trying to forget the sad things that happened to me.”

Evidently, this superstar neighbor was Jim Carrey. “He lived literally like two buildings down from me. He had a telescope, and I had a telescope. He was like, “Where do you live? What floor do you live on?” I was like, Blah, blah, blah. And we looked out the windows on our telescopes and we could see each other.” The Weeknd and Jim Carrey recently discovered they were neighbors, and now Jim Carrey, the comedian, and actor, is featured heavily on this album. On the hollowness of rich living Carrey had famously said, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”

On the theme of love lost The Great Gatsby’s second main character is yearning for a woman and she lives across the bay. Her dock has a dull green light on it which acts as a symbolic beacon for him. This beacon represents wanting her and wanting love.

…he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and far as I was from him I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward–and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock. When I looked once more for Gatsby he had vanished, and I was alone again in the unquiet darkness.

Dawn FM references this dull light, the beacon, and the metaphoric empty mansion.

You’re almost there, but don’t panic
There’s still more music to come
Before you’re completely engulfed in the blissful embrace of that little light you see in the distance
Soon you’ll be healed, forgiven, and refreshed
Free from all trauma, pain, guilt, and shame

You may even forget your own name
But before you dwell in that house forever

During the novel, we discover this love is actually married to someone else. Maybe this is a loveless marriage though. Wanting love and discovering one can’t love The Weeknd says Dawn FM :

How do I make you love me?
How do I make you fall for me?
How do I make you want me

Let me love you
Let me love you like you need

Oh, is there someone else or not?
‘Cause I wanna keep you close
I don’t wanna lose my spot
‘Cause I need to know
If you’re hurting him, or you’re hurting me
If I ain’t with you, I don’t wanna be
Is there someone else or not?

But instead you ended up with someone so basic, faceless

Oh, I heard you’re married, girl
I knew that this was too good to be true
And I hate it
Oh, I heard you’re married, girl
The way you had me wrapped around your fingertip
I can’t be with you
No, I can’t be with you
You’re too deceiving, girl

[Songs in order: How Do I Make You Love Me?, Starry Eyes, Is There Someone Else?, Here We Go… Again, I Heard You’re Married]

All I kept thinking about, over and over, was ‘You can’t live forever; you can’t live forever

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning——
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
-The Great Gatsby
If pain’s living on when your body’s long gone
And your phantom regret hasn’t let it go yet
You may not have died in the way that you must
All specters are haunted by their own lack of trust

Consider the flowers, they don’t try to look right
They just open their petals and turn to the light
Are you listening real close? Heaven’s not that, it’s this
It’s the depth of this moment, we don’t reach for bliss
God knows life is chaos, but He made one thing true
You gotta unwind your mind, train your soul to align
And dance ’til you find that divine boogaloo
-Jim Carrey, Dawn FM

Conclusion

For his past two albums, The Weeknd has been beating on themes of love lost and how empty fame is. He sings it clear and loud. Dawn FM is a fantastic follow-up to the hit album After Hours. 

The album masters genres such as hip hop, Synthpop, and R&B. It is a must-listen for music fans.

Brilliant – The Weeknd – Dawn FM

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