The wait is almost over.
On Friday, the Weeknd will release “Dawn FM,” his fifth studio album, and his first full length project since the 2020 blockbuster “After Hours.”
Earlier this week, the Toronto singer-songwriter shared a mysterious, minute-long trailer, which describes “Dawn FM” as “a new sonic universe,” and teases appearances from superproducer Quincy Jones, rappers Tyler, The Creator and Lil Wayne, electronic artist and composer Oneohtrix Point Never (OPN) and … Jim Carrey (who happens to be the Weeknd’s real-life neighbour.)
Additional details have slowly trickled out throughout the week, including the album’s bizarre cover art featuring a close-up shot of the artist’s digitally-aged face, a detailed tracklist and more.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the release of “Dawn FM”:
When can I listen?
The Weeknd will premiere “Dawn FM” on Friday at midnight. Listeners can tune into a livestream on the Amazon Music app or on Amazon Music’s Twitch channel.
What can we expect?
Based on the artwork, a couple of short teasers and recent interviews, “Dawn FM” appears to be a concept album of sorts – perhaps similar to “After Hours,” which employed psychedelic aesthetics to explore themes of hedonism and self-loathing.
In an interview with Billboard, the Weeknd described it as follows:
“Picture the album being like the listener is dead. And they’re stuck in this purgatory state, which I always imagined would be like being stuck in traffic waiting to reach the light at the end of the tunnel. And while you’re stuck in traffic, they got a radio station playing in the car, with a radio host guiding you to the light and helping you transition to the other side. So it could feel celebratory, could feel bleak, however you want to make it feel, but that’s what The Dawn is for me.”
The album’s first single, “Take My Breath,” came out in August. The radio-ready, synth-heavy track does not mark much of a departure from the music on “After Hours,” nor do the brief clips featured in the album teasers. However, fans should expect a few surprises from the album’s broad range of musical guests.
The presence of Quincy Jones — the legendary music producer who has worked with Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson and countless other artists — hints at slick pop music, while the presence of rappers Tyler, The Creator and Lil Wayne hints at more hip hop-oriented sounds.
Then there’s OPN, the alias for experimental producer and music composer Daniel Lopatin. The Weeknd and OPN have worked closely over the years — OPN contributed production to “After Hours,” and the Weeknd was listed as the executive producer for OPN’s 2020 album “Magic Oneohtrix Point Never.” The Weeknd also appeared in the Safdie brothers film “Uncut Gems,” which was scored by Lopatin. With OPN, fans can expect plenty of unique vocal alterations and digital acrobatics.
“No Nightmares” performed by Oneohtrix Point Never with vocals by The Weeknd. Additional vocals by Caroline Polachek. Taken from the new album “Magic Oneohtrix Point Never”, available now on Warp Records.
As for Jim Carrey … we’ll just have to see.
Born Abel Tesfaye in Toronto and raised in Scarborough, the Weeknd first appeared in 2011 with the release of the “House of Balloons” trilogy. The three mixtapes — marked by dark themes and sparse production, and carried by Tesfaye’s menacing charisma — were universally acclaimed, helping put Toronto R&B on the map and altering the trajectory of the genre for years to come.
Provided to YouTube by Universal Music Group
Since then, the Weeknd has slowly drifted toward the centre, working with mainstream hitmakers like Max Martin, Frank Dukes and Daft Punk to establish himself as one of the biggest names in popular music.
And though his decision to embrace a more radio-friendly approach to songwriting has alienated many early fans, the Weeknd’s sound occasionally returns to the gritty sounds and aesthetics of his early work, exploring similar themes of toxic love and drug use.
The “After Hours” era
The Weeknd further reinvented his sound on his fourth studio album, “After Hours,” merging his signature style with retro elements of new wave and dream pop. The album, which dropped in March 2020, was a major success, topping the Billboard 200 for four weeks and going double platinum.
The megahit “Blinding Lights” entered the Billboard Hot 100 on Nov. 29, 2019, and stayed there until Sept. 11, 2021 — that’s 90 weeks, more than any song in the chart’s history. The track also inspired three official remixes and a TikTok challenge.
In May of 2020, the Weeknd failed to receive a single Grammy nomination, despite the massive commercial success of “After Hours” and “Blinding Lights.” Variety called it the “biggest snub in Grammy history.”
In response, the Weeknd announced that he would boycott the awards moving forward, citing the role of anonymous expert committees who make up the voting membership of the Recording Academy. In a statement he said: “Because of the secret committees, I will no longer allow my label to submit my music to the Grammys.”
Super Bowl Halftime Show
In February of 2021, the Weeknd, became the first Canadian to headline the Super Bowl halftime show. In line with the visual aesthetics of “After Hours,” the Weeknd (without guests) performed a string of career-spanning hits dressed in a red blazer covered in crystals, surrounded by creepy bandaged dancers, funhouse mirrors and a Vegas-esque cityscape.
The Weeknd released a string of singles and collaborations in 2021, including a “Save Your Tears” remix with Ariana Grande.
In June, he collaborated with Doja Cat on the track “You Right.”
Last summer, he appeared alongside Catalan singer Rosalía on “La Fama,” an infectious bachata song sung entirely in Spanish. The song will appear on Rosalía’s upcoming album “Motomami.” The Weeknd and Rosalía previously collaborated on a “Blinding Lights” remix.
In December, the Weeknd teamed up with English singer-songwriter FKA Twigs for the bass-heavy banger “Tears In The Club.”
He also appeared on the Aaliyah track “Poison,” which will appear on the upcoming posthumous album “Unstoppable.” The album will also feature contributions from Drake, Chris Brown and Future. Not everyone is on board with the project.
The Weeknd has a big year ahead.
In the summer, he’ll kick off the massive “After Hours til Dawn” stadium tour, which will travel across North America, Europe, South America, Asia, Australia, Africa and the Middle East. The tour will likely include at least two nights in Toronto at Scotiabank Arena.
Tesfaye is also planning to make a leap onto the silver screen: he’s currently working on an HBO series titled “The Idol.” According to Variety, he’ll star and co-write the series, which follows a female pop singer who starts a romance with an enigmatic L.A. club owner who is the leader of a secret cult. The show is being created alongside by Reza Fahim and Sam Levinson.