'3.15.20': Childish Gambino’s new album reinvents artist once again
Donald Glover streamed a collection of new songs of his album last week on March 15 to fans released on Donald Glover Presents. Glover, a multitalented actor, comedian and singer-songwriter, had been out of the public eye for a while to the point where I’ve wondered if he had retired Childish Gambino altogether before this. While it was offered to listeners for only a brief 12 hours, it provided much-needed solace in times of self-isolation.
Fast forward a week, and Gambino released his fourth studio album, 3.15.20. The album dropped on March 22 and holds a soundtrack of 12 different songs featuring frequent collaborators such as Ludwig Göransson. The album cover is a white blank square. It has 10 of its 12 songs which have simply been titled their time signatures in the album, and the other two are called “Time” and “Algorhythm.”
The album is proof that Glover has switched up his sound once again. He's combining elements of his previous works while adding an experimental flair. He's not afraid to try out new instruments and sounds and combine them in an unusual way.
The production value, while unusual, proves to be pretty effective. Overall, the album features some experimental funk, as he branches out his sound. He even goes from channeling Kanye’s Yeezus in “32.22” in what sounds like one of Göransson’s scores in "Black Panther," to the much soft and melodic, but upbeat summer hit “42.26” (“Feels Like Summer”).
Lyrically, you can see Gambino is once again back with his witty self. He features Ariana Grande, 21 Savage and Kadhja Bonet who complement his sound and presence. Overall, while his rapping is limited to the track “53.49," he is still able to deliver a strong performance.
In addition to rapping, his vocal performance in this album shows his range going from soft to more aggressive, which is most apparent in “53.49,” where he switches back and forth between singing and rapping.
Thematically, he dives into bigger issues such as time, dealing with grief and other pressing, anxiety-inducing issues. On the other hand, he also discusses self-love and beauty. These more aggressive songs are sprinkled in between calm relaxing songs, balancing them out pretty nicely.
My complaints about the album are that Gambino didn’t include songs such as “Saturday,” featured in his latest movie “Guava Island,” and “Human Sacrifice,” which was teased at his This Is America Tour. Other small grievances would be the lack of an album cover and that the titles are timestamps, which make it more difficult to remember favorite tracks.
While that is the case, that means relying on remembering favorite moments on tracks. For example, “12.28” had features such as 21 Savage rapping, to the smooth beat switch with Bonet. Another favorite moment on the album was on “47.48” when he brought out his son, Legend Glover. The two discussed love on the outro of the song, with his son asking “Do you love yourself?” to which Gambino responded, “I do love myself.”
His closing song “53.49” is one of my favorites on the track and features him transitioning between singing and rapping. It’s been a while since we’ve gotten a taste of Gambino rapping and to see him rapping under this funky instrumental is something else. He experiments with drums interspersed with synths and organs in what makes for a fantastic listening experience and a wonderful way to close off the album.
All in all, I am hopeful for more projects from Gambino, whether it be the next season of “Atlanta” or whatever his next endeavor may be.
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