On December 2, Donald Glover released his third studio album, Awaken, My Love! under his rap name, Childish Gambino. The album is eleven tracks totaling up to 48 minutes with two singles, “Me and Your Mama” and “Redbone.” He debuted tracks from this album at a three-day music fest in Joshua Tree, CA called PHAROS. Music fest goers were able to purchase tickets via the Pharos app and together they “shared a vibration for human progress.” Now the album is here and the fans who weren’t able to attend the festival got to experience something new.
Before listening to the singles and the album itself, fans would expect something similar to his sophomore album Because of the Internet but in this case, “Awaken, My Love!” isn’t anything like that. Gambino decided to take a left turn from that genre and instead “Awaken, My Love!” is something that takes us back to the past with genre-defying psychedelic funk/soul. While listening, we can tell that Gambino has taken a huge step into something that he feels more comfortable in.
He abandons the rapping and the familiar themes that we’re used to and incorporates wailing guitars, gospel like choruses, and that smooth soul feel that remind me of my grandparent’s music back in the day. This album is more experimental and like plenty of experimental albums, this one has its ups and downs.
“Me and Your Mama” seems like a three-part track. It starts off like a melodic lullaby with a smooth beat over a four note synth melody with hushed gospel in the background. It then evolves into a blend of towering vocals and Gambino howling and belting raw vocals begging the listener to ‘Let me into your heart/ Can’t stand it, back handed / They want to see us falling apart’\’ only to descend into a rock ballad with what seems like jazz influences. After this he warns us about the Boogieman and Zombies. On both tracks I honestly just like the chorus especially on Boogieman.
Unlike “Me and your Mama,” “California” doesn’t do much for me. Reminding me of “The Pina Colada Song” by Escape, the song is two minutes and 45 seconds of listening to Gambino sing something in an unbearable auto tuned accent.
“Redbone” by far is the best song on the album. Vocally resembling Macy Gray, “Redbone” puts the listeners in a groove trance with its downtempo beat and a looping baseline which seems like it should be something on the Baby Boy soundtrack. It’s a funk slow jam that blends love, lust, reconciliation, black soul, and wokeness all in one.
As the end of the album nears, ‘Baby Boy” takes us back to slow jams with lyrics that may spotlight Gambino’s anxieties as a new father or lover, ‘This love for me is fading/ you waited, but I never came home to you.’
The closing track “Stand Tall” mirrors that of a Frank Ocean track and it highlights Gambino’s vocals remarkably well. This track gives us a taste of what the fans are used to but around the four-minute mark we’re taken back into this funky spacey feel of the album. The song then ends abruptly in the middle of a sustained note.
I’m not really sure on the intent or message behind Awaken, My Love! and Gambino obviously wanted to enlighten us. The creativity and courage that Gambino incorporated into this project is admirable. Maybe it’ll take a few plays for us to love it like we should.