The multi-talented Donald Glover has previously showed off his talents as an actor, writer, comedian and DJ. When he dons his stage name of Childish Gambino, he becomes a rapper known for being a talented lyricist with an incredible flow. So how can a rapper release an album which doesn’t contain any rapping? That is exactly what Gambino does in his latest album.
If you take a look through his career, Gambino’s music is ever-changing. Perhaps what sets him apart from a lot of other artists is his ability to alternate between styles and genres, which has resulted in him generating three very dissimilar studio albums. The latest of these projects, Awaken, My Love!, has an almost transcendent feel about the way the album has been constructed. It feels as though Gambino is taking his audience on a musical journey, but it is certainly not an album aimed at fans of mainstream rap. It strikes me as an album which will either be loved or hated, with Gambino striving to, once again, achieve something different. He certainly has created something quite unlike any album I’ve heard before from his genre, which in a way has separated himself from that genre. For some this psychedelic funk rock feel will be a refreshing change and will be seen as artistically brilliant. For others, this album will be a bridge too far away from the type of music they will have been craving since Because The Internet, Gambino’s last studio album. There may be critics who feel he has pushed too hard to create something different and feel it has not worked.
As much as I loved tracks like 3005 and Telegraph Ave, I personally applaud Gambino’s decision to create an album so distanced from his previous genre. In fact, I would say that Awaken, My Love! is so intriguingly abstract that it is impossible to conclude anything other than this is an album which is worth your time. Redbone, which I believe to be the best song on the album, in particular is one track where I think the concept Gambino is aiming for is fully achieved. Producer Ludwig Goransson deserves a lot of credit for the work done on this track. Similarly, I found Terrified to be another almost captivating track which showed me that when the concept works, Gambino’s art can be mesmerising. However, at times I am of the view that some of the tracks are so focused around this aim of being distinctive that, despite making for a curious listen, they lose the impact of some more mainstream songs. Songs such as The Night Me and Your Mama Met are interesting to an extent, but I can picture myself skipping past this song when listening to the album. I can’t see myself showing the track off to friends etc, so in a way you could say the song loses some value.
Whatever you make of Awaken, My Love!, you have to respect the attempt from Gambino to create something so artistically unique. It may not be Starboy, the latest studio album by The Weeknd, grappled with similar issues as to how far to stray from mainstream music. I was slightly critical of The Weeknd’s decision to hedge his bets and create a half diverse/half mainstream album. Alternatively, Gambino has no issue running a mile from mainstream music in order to create something unorthodox and imaginative. As I said, I feel this album will divide opinion, but there is something you must admire about the unique musical journey Gambino takes us on during this album.
By Cameron Sahota