The 9 Best Radio Station Albums

Last week, The Weeknd dropped the year’s first blockbuster album, Dawn FM. His last album, After Hours, unspooled a cinematic storyline that paid tribute to various films; this time, he uses radio as a narrative device, as the songs play like listening to an adult contemporary station. Jim Carrey is the reassuring, slightly creepy voice of a DJ on 103.5 Dawn FM, while The Weeknd’s cheesy sing-song station ID jingle is one of the album’s catchiest earworms.

The Weeknd isn’t the first musician to use this concept. Classic albums by some of the most revered bands and rappers of all time have also been structured like a radio station flipping between tracks, sometimes criticizing the state of radio, sometimes paying tribute to the medium, and sometimes just goofing around. Here’s a look back at 9 of the best albums from the past half century that deployed the concept.

9. Queens of the Stone Age – Songs For The Deaf (2002)

This was Queens of the Stone Age’s big breakthrough album, with Dave Grohl sitting in on drums, spinning off the hits “No One Knows” and “Go With The Flow.” It’s running theme, with a car radio tracing a road trip from L.A. out to the California desert, lampoons the same kinds of rock stations that now had the band in heavy rotation. The album opens with KLON Los Angeles Clone Radio proudly proclaiming, “We play the songs that sound more like everyone else than anyone else.” But by the end, the epic centerpiece “God Is In The Radio” establishes a slightly more favorable view of the FM dial. Musicians including The Cramps frontman Lux Interior and Marilyn Manson’s Twiggy Ramirez play the DJs that pop up throughout.

8. Oneohtrix Point Never – Magic Oneohtrix Point Never (2020)

OK, it’s not technically a radio station album–instead, Daniel Lopatin tweaks radio static and glossy Top 40 aesthetics into something avant garde yet strangely beautiful. But it’s easy to imagine that Magic Oneohtrix Point Never, executive produced by Tesfaye, was on some level a precursor to Dawn FM, which features Lopatin’s production on 13 tracks. The two began collaborating after Lopatin scored the Tesfaye-starring Uncut Gems.

7. Various Artists – Reservoir Dogs: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1992)

Quentin Tarantino’s debut unfolds over the course of a weekend, with the fictitious radio station K-Billy’s “Super Sounds of the Seventies Weekend” as a sonic backdrop and infamously deadpan comedian Steven Wright playing DJ. The soundtrack album, then, becomes essentially a half hour of listening to K-Billy, complete with extra Steven Wright interludes, as he dryly introduces AM gold like “Hooked On A Feeling” and “Stuck in the Middle with You.”

6. The Carpenters – Now & Then (1973)

This may have been the first really popular work of ‘60s nostalgia. The entire second half of the brother/sister duo’s fifth album was taken up by the single “Yesterday Once More” and an interlinked medley of hit songs from 1961-64, including classics by the Beach Boys, Bobby Vee, and the Chiffons. Carpenters guitarist Tony Peluso plays the part of the radio DJ escorting you through the oldies, with Richard and Karen’s cousin Mark in a cameo as a listener who calls into the station.

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