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Hip-hop comebacks: The Weeknd and Earl Sweatshirt release new bangers

January 17, 2022

Everyone loves a comeback, especially in the music world. Within the same week, The Weeknd and Earl Sweatshirt, two of the top artists in their genre, released new albums; revealing their new sounds and visions with the next phase of their career.

The Weeknd's fifth studio album — and first album since the critically-acclaimed "After Hours" album — "Dawn FM," came out Jan. 7, proving to audiences that the pop icon can come back with a surprise and still top the charts.

"I think it was a good comeback," media and information senior and Photo Coordinator at Impact FM Kat Keeley said. "I feel like there was a lot of 80s and techno to this album and I really like that because there are some songs that remind me of other songs from the 80s."

While some were confused about the cover art — an elderly version of The Weeknd — and what the message was, the message of the album was received: afterlife and death. While the mainstream media may have remained concerned, fans are used to this strange image from the artist after coming back from an era where the artist wore bandages around his nose, depicting a person who had received plastic surgery.

Along with these offbeat influences in the album, fans also believe this album follows a storyline. Social relations and policy senior Luke Adams, a member of the Music Review team at Impact FM, said he visualizes the album as a radio death, or someone experiencing a radio broadcast as they are pulled into purgatory and the afterlife.

This is following "After Hours," which centers around the main character of the album's death. There are also rumors that this story may continue; The Weeknd tweeted that his audience will experience a trilogy or a third album to fully pull this idea together musically.

"I think rather than visualizing as a comeback album, it helps to visualize this as the next step of the vision," Adams said.

With breakout songs on the album like "Sacrifice" and "Take My Breath," Keeley said The Weeknd is embracing a retro funk, but also moving away from songs about relationships and focusing more on himself and narrative storytelling.

Working off his popularity with performing the Super Bowl, The Weeknd was also able to achieve a lot bigger features on "Dawn FM," including Lil Wayne and Tyler the Creator. Even Jim Carrey voices the descent into purgatory for the listener in the album.

Environmental studies and sustainability freshman McKenzee Kositzke said the only criticism she had for the album was the idea of quantity over quality, and keeping the album short and sweet.

"The Weeknd’s album has a lot of songs on it and they’re all pretty good, don’t get me wrong, but I think less is more," Kositzke said.

Earl Sweatshirt's fourth studio album and first in four years is "Sick!" following his reputation in the music industry for angry and seemingly offensive mixtapes with music group Odd Future.

However, Adams said that Earl is slowly moving into auteurism with his career, even with his sound getting weirder with every step.

"He’s grown, and he's learned things while he’s growing," social relations and policy senior Mason Vore, who is the music director at Impact FM, said. "He’s always honest and that changes as he gets older. I personally love all of his stuff so it's cool to see him as he grows."

Vore said he believes part of this purposeful sound also comes purposeful features, such as Armand Hammer on the first single of this new album.

While this is the newest album for Earl in years, Vore does not see this as a comeback but as an evolution of his sound.

"Earl is really good at … not being confined at what people expect you to make … not being uncompromising to your style," Vore said.

While Adams believed there would be little expectations for the new album because of the general consensus of his latest EP, "Feet of Clay," being repetitive, he hoped that this album would go in an even more adventurous direction than he has ever taken it.

"He has great technical skill, but it's always in a weird way," Adams said. "It's very unconventional."

When asked about the albums, Adams said that a comeback implies that there was a fall off, which is not the case for these two artists who have only continued their success with these albums.

While the Weeknd has always been more mainstream and popular, Earl and the Odd Future gang is working their way up the music industry, and these albums have only increased both of their relevance and credit in the acclaimed artist group in the pop and hip-hop scene.

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