Donald Glover is a very busy man. In between his many different acting gigs and starring, producing, directing and writing his own TV series Atlanta, he has found the time to don the Childish Gambino hat and create an album Awaken, My Love! Fans have gotten to know the artist over the course of his career as a witty rapper with smart-poignant lyrics. He is putting all of that to the side on Awaken My Love! with an eclectic, funk-filled album.
There were signs that Gambino wasn't going to rap on this album. The first two singles "Redbone" (the standout single from the LP) and "Me and Your Mama" had no rapping and the album art is slightly influenced by Funkadelic's Maggot Brain.
With the full album out, fans can hear there is no rapping at all.
The first question one can try and ask is what is this? How does one categorize this album? As music journalists and listeners we try and put things into a box to attempt and keep things nice and neatly organized. However pop has crossed over into so many different genres, mixing and mashing so many different sounds that it is becoming increasingly difficult to do that. This album embodies that multi-cultural ideal e pluribus unum, out of many, one. There is R&B, funk, soul, blues, rock and so much more all blended together in one experimental piece.
With that behind us, what has Gambino left behind with this album? It is an ambitious, experimental album to say the least. This is nothing like we have seen from him in the past. There was no transitional EP or sequence of singles that showed something working up to this. He went from zero to sixty at Tesla ludicrous speed.
Was it successful? It is a mixed bag. There are songs that sound clearly influenced by some of the artists he grew up listening to without offering much new to the genre - adding anything from a modern perspective such as "Zombies." "Boogieman," despite how funky it is, could also fall into that category.
He dons many different accents throughout the album, such as on "Riot" or "California," which could be Donald Glover trying to peak through and show just how great an overall artist he is, but they don't work as well as he intended. There are no features, so this could be a way to create the feeling that there are different individuals singing and speaking on the album.
All of this isn't to say this isn't a good album. Despite some of the odd features of the album, it does flow quite well and meshes many different styles and sounds together. For a leap this far outside of his own comfort zone, it is impressive to find Gambino land on his feat without too much of a stumble. If he were a gymnast, he would land the vault and take a few steps to one side, but still be on the mat. Clear highlights include the two singles "Redbone," and "Me and Your Mama" and even "Boogieman."
This is an album that needs several listens all of the way through to start to comprehend.