If any man has mastered the art of the rollout in the modern music landscape, it’s none other than The Weeknd. At a time where fans’ attention spans are more tenuous than ever and near-impossible to maintain, the otherworldly aura of Abel Tesfaye’s output and the consistency with which he’s delivered spellbinding work has meant that, whenever rumblings of new music begin, the world collectively sits up and takes notice.
From Beauty Behind The Madness onwards, each release from Abel has not just been billed as an album, but a momentous event in music. And after cutting his teeth in the underground with his landmark Trilogy, The Weeknd isn’t shy about using every lavish promotional tool at his disposal to grind the industry to a halt. And in the case of Dawn FM, this is something that he’s done with aplomb.
After proclaiming that “the dawn is coming” in May of last year, speculation immediately began to run roughshod as to whether a new release from the alternative R&B superstar was imminent.
“I’m guilty of wanting to outdo my last album,” the artist later said in a GQ interview in August of 2021. “But it’s never like, ‘I’ve got to do the same type of song.’ I’m so happy I’m not like that. My palette is so wide.”
Kevin Winter/Getty Images
And with that, the world was in hysterics.
But rather than just envisioning what his first project since the expansive, 80’s synth-pop infused world of After Hours
would sound like, the October 5th edition of his Memento Mori radio show added a new dynamic to proceedings when Abel revealed that album number 5 would be more feature-heavy than previous efforts. Rather than refer to them as guests, he emphasized that they are “characters,” and much like his last album was driven by a central plot that the music provided an original score for, he claimed that their roles would be central to the narrative that drives what we now know to be Dawn FM.
First unveiled in what was an extravagant, cinematically scaled trailer, The Weeknd has revealed that there will be five “characters” who will leave their imprint on his new project. Just days away from its release on January 7th, we’re going to take an in-depth look at the relationship between Abel and each of his collaborators in order to determine what might be in store for us in this bold, new sonic universe of his.
Tyler, The Creator
Tyler, the Creator – Kevin Winter/Getty Images
In a lot of ways, it’s felt like The Weeknd and Tyler, The Creator have been ships in the night for years. Having both exploded onto the scene in 2011 with House Of Balloons and Goblin respectively, both mens’ statuses as visionaries made an eventual team-up seem inevitable. However, in the earlier days of their career, that reputation as geniuses in the making came with an insularity that made collabs from either few and far between.
Despite this, they have expressed mutual admiration during interviews and in a 2015 edition of Puss Puss magazine, Tyler remarked that “I really like The Weeknd’s song, “Tell Your Friends.” That song is so fucking great, I really like it.”
Later down the line, Tyler could be seen rendering Abel’s 2016 smash “Starboy” in his own, sardonic style.
Although it was apparent that the former leader of Odd Future was a fan of The Weeknd, Tesfaye had remained largely silent on his feelings about Tyler until very recently. In his 2021 GQ cover story, he revealed that not only did he marvel at Tyler’s creative evolution, but the two had what seemed like a typically bizarre encounter.
“I got mad love for Tyler, the Creator, and what he’s doing right now,” he relayed. “Tyler is funny, man. I remember he came to one of my performances—I think it was like a festival performance. And he was very vocal about how “Starboy” was his favorite song at the time. You can tell he’s waiting for the song. I could see him. As soon as the song happened, he’s like, “All right, cool. Thanks.” And he just peaced out. It was pretty funny. But he’s somebody that I really admire, because he wears his feelings on his sleeve.”
Strongly rumored to appear together on the track “Here We Go Again”, it’ll be intriguing to see whether Tyler’s contributions will come solely in a vocal capacity or if his trademark brand of production will have made it into Abel’s catalogue at last.
Lil Wayne – Rich Fury/Getty Images
At face value, Lil Wayne and The Weeknd may seem like an odd combination but the past has proven that it works. Back in 2017, the two previously encountered one another on the plaintive “I’m Good” from Dedication 5 in which the Canadian vocalist provided an extended intro to the project that explored the familiar terrain of the perils and perks of fame.
Highly regarded as one of the most versatile and distinctive voices in hip-hop, Tunechi will likely be bringing a more surreal texture to The Weeknd’s new project than the straight-ahead proclamation Abel provided on his. Either way, the two linking up on a major project– seemingly on the track “I Heard You Were Married”– is sure to have both sets of fans in a frenzy. Plus, when you consider that both men were vocal about their anger over being unceremoniously snubbed by The Grammy’s last year, what better way is there to send a middle finger to the recording academy than to turn in a blistering track that won’t even be submitted for their consideration?
Quincy Jones – Amy Sussman/Getty Images
Inarguably one of the finest record producers and composers that the United States has ever produced, it’s hard to imagine that any true scholar of music wouldn’t leap at the chance to have Quincy Jones provide his deft touch to their records.
In Abel’s case, the Canadian superstar holding a candle for Jones is no surprise when you consider that he was so instrumental in the career of Michael Jackson, whose influence on The Weeknd is evident. The Weeknd has also revealed that Jones’ mindset acted as a guide for how to broach the turbulent world of fame and celebrity.
Speaking when he was awarded The Quincy Jones Humanitarian Award, Abel declared that, “I actually first met Quincy Jones in Vegas a long time ago. He pulled up to one of my club shows and when I got off stage, he was waiting on the side and I was so excited to meet him. There were fans on the other side of the stage screaming and trying to get my attention but I was so focused on him, Quincy Jones, the reason why I do this.
He told me to go to the fans, go take pictures and sign autographs, I’ll still be here waiting, they’re more important. And that stuck with me till this day,” he continued, “he was teaching me a lesson in that moment that nothing is more important than the people and giving back is always better than receiving.”
With the ceremony held this past September, it’s likely that the event gave the pair the chance to hatch plans to collaborate. Now, we will see the crossover between one of modern music’s most imaginative minds and one of its most enduring talents in just a few days’ time on “A Tale By Quincy.”
Oneohtrix Point Never
Daniel Lopatin – Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images
While their levels of celebrity and mainstream applicability may be at two different ends at the spectrum, all reports suggest that in the past few years, Abel Tesfaye and Daniel Lopatin, better known as electronic virtuoso Oneohtrix Point Never, have become kindred spirits.
Brought together by their contributions to the Academy Award nominated Uncut Gems, the experience of being aligned by the Safdie Brothers’ film seemed to have cosmic implications as the two are now inseparable. Speaking to Variety after the film’s release, Josh Safdie even said that during the club scene in Uncut Gems where Abel performs House Of Balloons-era classic “The Morning”, he was originally intended to perform one of “four or five amazing tracks“ that he’d recorded with Lopatin.
After The Weeknd reportedly told Lopatin, “I’d heard your music before, but now I understand,” Abel helmed executive producer duties on his 2020 project Oneohtrix Point Never Magic, with the vocalist even taking centre stage on the stunningly ambient track “No Nightmares.”
In an interview with GQ, OHN spoke about the role that the positive yet uncompromising influence of Tesfaye had on the project. “It was obvious that he’s someone I can really rely on when it comes to honest feedback. I love his perspective because it’s so wildly different from how he’s in the world musically, and that means a lot to me.”
A bonafide musical bromance, in February of 2021,Daniel played a pivotal role in the arrangement and execution of The Weeknd’s “Superbowl” halftime show. Afterwards, the two were pictured celebrating their triumph together.
At the moment, the extent of Lopatin’s role is not known, but when you consider that he has three production credits on After Hours and was never billed as a feature, it’d suggest that his role in crafting luscious soundscapes must be a more overarching one this time around.
Jim Carrey – Rich Fury/WireImage/Getty Images
If any of the guest appearances on Dawn FM seemed practically predestined to raise eyebrows, it’s this one. Although he’s played an integral role in no shortage of films, documentaries, television series and even loaned his voice to a video game in 2006, acclaimed comedian and actor Jim Carrey has never crossed over into the realm of music. Now, he’s slated to debut in the medium on The Weeknd’s new project and while this may seem far-fetched, Abel revealed that the two have become close friends in the past few years.
“I texted him the address of my condo in L.A., and he said, ‘I can literally see your place from my balcony,’ and we got out telescopes and were waving to each other,” he told Variety in April 2020. “And when I told him about my mom taking me to see The Mask, he knew the theater! On his balcony he had these giant red balloons, and he picked me up and we went to breakfast. It was surreal. Jim Carrey was my first inspiration to be any kind of performer, and I went to breakfast with him on my first day of being 30.”
Heard in both of the project’s trailers to date, it’s expected that his unmistakable voice will either bookend the project or be heard throughout in a series of interludes. In fact, the last track on the project is even titled “Phantom Regret by Jim.”
As for Jim’s review of the project, it’s safe to say that he’s enthused about it.
“I listened to Dawn FM with my good friend Abel @theweeknd last night,” Carrey tweeted after the trailer dropped. “It was deep and elegant and it danced me around the room. I’m thrilled to play a part in his symphony.”