January 14, 2022: The Weeknd, "Here We Go... Again"
I can’t stop listening to The Weeknd’s Dawn FM, a supremely confident and polished collection of pop music from one of the biggest stars on the planet. The part of me that remembers 2011 like it was yesterday will never get over the fact that the guy who made House of Balloons and the guy who made Replica ended up being musical soulmates, and that their third wheel in the studio is the most important pop producer of the last 25 years. The part of me living in the present just feels a tremendous sense of joy. It’s magical to watch two formidable talents come together and push each other to greater heights.
This is the kind of album where picking One Good Song suddenly becomes an insanely frustrating constraint. Dawn FM’s imperial opening suite spans new wave, chilly robo-pop, and sweaty, sleazy disco while rolling through the peaks and valleys of a quality DJ set. “Out of Time” brings Japanese city pop to the masses with a reverent flip of Tomoko Aran’s “Midnight Pretenders,” using it as the base for a lovelorn Off the Wall-style ballad.
I’m obsessed with “Is There Someone Else?,” a tightly wound marvel of chunky textures and romantic paranoia that’s played in my head on a loop for days. And yet here we are talking about “Here We Go… Again” — not my favourite song on the album, but the one that best represents what I love about Dawn FM as a whole: the newfound playfulness, the sense of grandeur, the sheer audacity of the project.
This song tickles me in a rare and fundamental way. There’s something impish about it. This might sound like a reach, but it reminds me of how I feel listening to someone like DJ Koze. Someone is toying with me, they’re playing a trick, they’re manipulating my preconceived notions about beauty and taste and inviting a reconsideration. The joke is right there in the title: after half an hour of unpredictable and occasionally radical pop music, you hear The Weeknd’s signature cadence — that angelic sung-rapped flow — and the album’s first truly self-referential verse on a song called “Here We Go… Again.” Those glowing harmonies were co-written and produced by a near-octogenarian member of The Beach Boys. They’re beautiful and a little bit absurd.
And like, let’s stop dancing around it: this song’s lyrics are stupid! Stupid in a transcendent, knowing way. “Here We Go… Again” is a victory lap that catapults beyond self-parody and come all the way back around to genius. You get to hear one of the most gifted working vocalists stare deep into your soul — the only way this song can possibly be delivered — and sing the words, “I loved her right, made her Scream like Neve Campbell / But when I make her laugh, swear it cures my depressin’ thoughts.” (This is a lyric I plan on taking to my grave.)
None of these constituent parts are groundbreaking in The Weeknd’s discography. He's indulged in sunlit soft-rock schlock and he’s written punchlines this goofy. What gets me about “Here We Go… Again” is the context and the panache. It leaves me feeling charmed. After leading you through the most impressive half-dozen songs he’s ever made, Abel greets you at the gate with a wink and a cheeky grin. It’s like he’s speaking directly to you, the listener: “Isn’t this silly? Aren’t we having fun? I’m so good at this!” It’s the moment Dawn FM cements itself as a clear and immediate classic.