Album Review: Childish Gambino – …Awaken, My Love!
Three years have passed since Childish Gambino, the pseudo name for the Atlanta writer/actor/comedian/rapper/singer Donald Glover, released his critically acclaimed sophomore album Because the Internet. The follow up and his third full length project goes down the path less traveled and introduces us to a new Gambino sound.
Donald Glover has had his fingers in every aspect of the entertainment business since graduating from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Starting off as a writer for NBC’s “30 Rock” Glover broke into acting in “Community” to releasing multiple mixtapes/albums and now creating and starring in his new FX hit Atlanta. After recently being revealed that Glover will play Lando Calrissian in the forthcoming Star Wars film about Han Solo, he has released his third official studio album that explores a variety of sounds with influences hindering from rock, funk, R&B and gospel. Awaken, My Love is an exploration into the thoughts of Childish Gambino and reveals his personal struggles and demons. Straying far away from any of the music he has released throughout his career, Gambino dives head-first into a sound that is fresh and unfamiliar to the listener’s ears.
Gambino’s third album largest strength is yielded from its production, with variety of unique production and interstellar sounds. Beginning to end, the instrumentals and flow of the album make you feel like you are travelling through stars, encompassing stellar electric guitar riffs, 70’s feeling synth- piano and intense percussions. From the start, “Me and Your Mama” being the lead single and opening track starts off with relaxing chimes being played followed with a bass line featuring a soulful background chorus. Gambino really exercises his vocal range on this track, hitting impressively high notes, keeping a feel similar to that of “Helter Skelter” by The Beatles.
The album also touches on topics that are relevant to controversial topics happening now, with a sound like something from a sitcom in the 70’s. “Boogieman” is a warning to African-American youth to be cautious and behave because of police brutality described as the boogieman.
“With a gun in your hand, I’m the boogieman, I’m gonna come and get you.” Gambino sings on “Boogieman.” “But if he’s scared of me How can we be free?”
The next track “Zombies” is Gambino confessing his feeling of being leached on by people who are trying to cling to his fame. The zombies described in the song are going after all of his creative talent in his brain and want to be “eating you for profit.”
The second single “Redbone” is a mix of different sounds and rhythms that is becomes an experience listening in itself. Coming in with a mix of electronic kick and faint synthesizer and strings in the background, evolving throughout the song by adding a chorus and a variety of additional instruments. Gambino sings up in pitch, using no synthesizers on his voice, hits a soothing tone. Childish Gambino sounds like he is singing on a more personal level in this song, which he also does on “Stand Tall” and “Baby Boy.”
The biggest flaw in this album falls to the singing itself throughout it. Though there are songs that shine with Gambino’s unique way of singing (Redbone, Me and Your Mama, Terrified) there are some songs that suffer more from it. “California” is a specific track that has so much potential, but is held back by Gambino’s moan/mumble singing. The song has a very beachy instrumental with lyrics that are all feel-good, but the singing style he takes on this really hurts it.
Childish Gambino has taken a step in the Kid Cudi direction a la “Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven” but has successfully pulled off what Cudder unfortunately could not have. He has released a passion project featuring a sound that is completely different from everything he has previously released up until this point. With not even a single verse rapped on Awaken, My Love! Gambino still manages to give fans a project that allows them to discover more with each listen. The stunning instrumentals make up for the questionable pitches that Gambino sings in select songs, making this album another great project to be released in the tornado of a year that has been 2016.
Overall Rating: 7.8 out of 10