The Weeknd dragged us along to a trip inside his psyche as he released a theatrical live performance of his recent album, “Dawn FM Experience,” on Feb. 26 for the Amazon Prime platform.
This time, he didn’t don his red suit and bloody nose and switched out the bandages to sport gray hair and wrinkles to match his dark, eerie purgatory-like realm coined the “Phase 2.”
For the past two years, Abel Tesfaye, known by his stage name The Weeknd, has been teasing this very era, constantly reassuring his fans who’ve come along on his journey by telling them that “The After Hours are over and the Dawn is coming.” Now that it’s finally here, Tesfaye has stuck to the visuals of this era.
He’s had the music world in a chokehold since the release of his previous multi-award-winning album, “After Hours.” His song “Blinding Lights” became Billboard’s number-one song of all time in 2020. Even after being snubbed at the Grammy’s in 2021, Tesfaye’s art has continued to be critically acclaimed.
Now that the dawn is finally here, we’ve been partying in an underground rave that resembles the one featured at the beginning of the film “Blade” since Jan. 7. The synthwave-electronic sound that was featured in “After Hours” hits harder than ever in “Dawn FM.”
Differentiating from “After Hours,” “Dawn FM” features a number of collaborations with notable artists such as Tyler the Creator, Lil Wayne, Swedish House Mafia, record producer Quincy Jones and even actor Jim Carrey, who narrates on several tracks on the album.
Although none of these acts were featured in the “Dawn FM Experience,” The Weeknd brought electronic-music producer OPN along for the ride while singing eight out of sixteen tracks off of the album.
The experience opens up with Tesfaye looking elderly and absolutely terrified as he walks through a darkened road that leads to an abandoned warehouse. Once he enters, the first track of the album begins to play and a sliver of light appears, signaling the dawn beginning. Next thing he knows, he’s on the ground on a hexagonal platform, surrounded by sweaty bodies tangled together on a dancefloor.
The next 30 minutes absolutely enthralled me and I was hooked from start to finish. At first, I assumed this was going to be a short film of sorts like he did previously for “After Hours.” But, honestly, my need for a live performance from him was fulfilled. Because of the pandemic, his “After Hours” tour had been postponed several times. After years of waiting, I figured this was the closest we’d all be to seeing him live until his new “After Hours til Dawn” tour dates are finally announced.
Although I’ve heard many people complain about him going pop and not making haunted strip-club music anymore, as he did on “Trilogy,” I commend Tesfaye for always evolving and changing as an artist while keeping his love for synth close to his heart. He’s no longer that depressed, homeless individual he was at the beginning of his career, and “Dawn FM” reflects that.
I really admire and appreciate how Tesfaye constantly sticks to his bit and immerses fans into the world he has created from “After Hours” to “Dawn FM.” There was a lot of disappointment when he released the cover photo of his album. Many fans nicknamed him “Grandpa Abel” because of his use of elderly-looking prosthetic makeup.
Fans of his are no stranger to Tesfaye using special effects makeup. There definitely was an uproar when he released his, “Save Your Tears,” music videos with people thinking he actually got plastic surgery done. Everything Tesfaye does is done with a purpose, although he never explicitly says why. He gives fans the opportunity to come up with as many bizarre theories as they can and that’s what makes immersive experiences like this so interesting.
Who else have you heard of getting Jim Carrey on an outro for one of their albums? From the sacrificial scenes with figures in black and red cloaks to the hexagonal house of mirrors, and the smoky dancefloor of neon lights, Tesfaye is on the path to going down in history as one of entertainment’s best storytellers.
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