ADRIAN THRILLS: Tune In As Jim Carrey Introduces A Weeknd Full Of Surprises

THE WEEKND: Dawn FM (XO)

Rating:

Verdict: Timely Tonic

ELVIS COSTELLO & THE IM POSTERS: The Boy Named If (EMI)

Rating:

Verdict: fast and furious

We’re only two weeks into 2022, but the first major album of the year is already heading towards the top of the charts.

Dawn FM is Canadian singer Abel Tesfaye’s fifth LP – aka The Weeknd – and its awesome mix of electronic dance and 80s-inspired pop is just the tonic to blow away all the cobwebs in January.

The Toronto musician’s previous release, 2020’s After Hours, which featured hit singles Blinding Lights and Save Your Tears, bolstered his signature R&B with catchy synth hooks. Dawn FM has its share of dark, bittersweet moments, but the shift to a more upbeat gear is even more pronounced.

We're only two weeks into 2022, but the first big album of the year is already heading towards the top of the charts

We’re only two weeks into 2022, but the first big album of the year is already heading towards the top of the charts

Tesfaye (whose stage name is pronounced “the weekend”) describes his new record as a “sonic experience” — a concept LP about a journey to the light at the end of the tunnel.

If After Hours chronicles a life of hedonism, loveless sex, and hollow celebrities, this sequel confronts its demons from the other side.

number of the week

GIVIN’ IT UP by PEARL CHARLES

Ahead of five UK dates next month, Californian singer-songwriter Charles is in great shape on Givin’ It Up. She sings romance and plays beautifully to a feel-good, country-soul song, complemented by electric piano and strings.

That could mean he turned over a new leaf. It could suggest some kind of afterlife. Given the timing, it could even apply to the trip outside the lockdown.

The album is framed as a radio show, 103.5 Dawn FM, with Jim Carrey, Ontario’s neighbor (and friend) Tesfaye as DJ and narrator. The artwork depicts the 31-year-old singer as an elderly man with a gray beard, and the implication seems to be that wherever he took him, his epic journey has left its scars.

However, he takes some impressive guests for the ride. In addition to Carrey, he is joined by Max Martin (the producer behind many of Taylor Swift and Katy Perry’s greatest songs) and electronic composer Daniel Lopatin. There are also cameos from Quincy Jones, Calvin Harris… and, most surprisingly, Beach Boy Bruce Johnston.

The retro influences are evident from the outset. After a spoken prologue from Carrey – ‘You’ve been in the dark way too long, it’s time to walk into the light’ – we sail into some glittering floor fillers.

Gasoline could be Depeche Mode, with a further nod to the past in a sentence about ‘dozing off to REM’ after a night of excesses. Dance act Swedish House Mafia is a guest on How Do I Make You Love Me?, while Take My Breath is sung in a Michael Jackson-esque falsetto voice.

A spoken word interlude, A Tale By Quincy, tells the producer of Jackson’s Thriller and Off The Wall albums about his own difficult childhood. The momentum drops slightly as Dawn FM progresses, and the second half is billed (by Carrey) as ’30 minutes of quiet listening to a few slow songs’.

Johnston adds vocal harmonies and keyboards to the ballad Here We Go… Again, and there are echoes of Daft Punk’s Tron: Legacy soundtrack on the cinematic Every Angel Is Terrifying, an account of a fictional movie called After Life.

Tesfaye also plays the romantic in love. “I changed my ways for the better,” he sings on Is There Someone Else? Another ballad, Best Friends, sees him take on the challenge of staying on good terms with an ex-lover. “Try not to go further, focus on the friendship,” is his tip.

The album is framed as a radio show, 103.5 Dawn FM, with Jim Carrey, Ontario's neighbor (and friend) Tesfaye as DJ and narrator.

The album is framed as a radio show, 103.5 Dawn FM, with Jim Carrey, Ontario’s neighbor (and friend) Tesfaye as DJ and narrator.

The songs are laced with both lyrical and musical nods to the 80s, and there are references to Prince’s When Doves Cry and Purple Rain.

There’s also, as Carrey pulls down the curtain, a sense of determination. “Dance until you find that divine boogaloo,” the actor advises, and Dawn FM ends on an optimistic note.

Elvis Costello addresses his own growing pains on The Boy Named If, harking back to the sound of his earliest albums, such as 1978’s This Year’s Model, to a set of punchy, melodic tunes propelled by his raw guitar playing and the drumming of Pete Thomas, who booms with the same kit he used in the late 1970s.

The 13 new songs here, according to Costello, “take us from the last days of a bewildered childhood to that humiliating moment when you’re told to stop acting like a kid — which is what most men (and maybe some girls) could be anytime in the next 50 years’.

Even for a singer considered to be one of Britain’s most accomplished, this is clearly no trivial matter. It’s often hard to comprehend what Elvis, 67, is singing about. In the telling Trick Out The Truth he mentions Lady Godiva, Godzilla and ‘cards with Gustav Mahler’.

Mistook Me For A Friend finds him with “a bag full of presidents, a suitcase full of elements, the double cross of glasses, a giant for mechanics.” Some songs are easier to understand. Penelope Halfpenny investigates the dreams of an old teacher. My Most Beautiful Mistake is about a jaded Hollywood screenwriter and waitress who dreams of stardom.

Musically, the latter relives the country rock of Costello’s first album, My Aim Is True. Lyrically, it contains references to Smokey Robinson’s Motown standard The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game. The music is uplifting. Goodbye, OK sounds like The Beatles playing the Kaiser keller in Hamburg. Steve Nieve’s organ on Magnificent Hurt is a throwback to Pump It Up from 1978.

Knowing to wallow in nostalgia for salad days, Costello looks back with an arched eyebrow.

Elvis embarks on a UK tour in Brighton (axs.com) on June 5.

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