Life for Donald Glover has been a whirlwind since the explosive funk and soul of 2016’s “Awaken, My Love!” His last album under the Childish Gambino moniker, he has since starred in the hit tv show Atlanta, as well as the live-action remake of Disney’s Lion King. Add the jaw-dropping single “This is America” and the equally mesmerizing Summer Pack in 2018, and the world was hungry for what Donald Glover, Hollywood’s premiere renaissance man, would grace us with next.
Well, considering that it is the end of days, and with everyone in a hushed panic as the world seemingly goes belly-up around us, Donald Glover takes the role of Childish Gambino for what may be the last time, and delivers his fourth album, 3.15.20 : a hushed, vibrant and industrial take on conscious hip-hop and r&b that thrills and terrifies, while warming the soul and uniting our collective body and mind.
Considering how retro-inspired his last album was, it’s refreshing and somewhat jarring to hear Gambino bring his sound to the future so prominently. Tracks like “Algorhythm” and “32.22” sound razor-sharp, distorted and danceable, while still maintaining the dark edge that Gambino has displayed on albums like Because the Internet. His singing still stands at the forefront on “35.31” and the maximalism of “Time” (with Ariana Grande) and “24.19” show Gambino’s ability to set a stage sonically. He can create a scene out of sound that evokes feelings of youth, innocence, and life.
Apprehension hangs in the air of “39.28”, and while “42.26” is an update on the song “Feels Like Summer”, the desire to breakout of the overwhelming heat of the moment, to avoid the incriminatingly oppressive “party”, are hopes we can understand and attempt to get past in our lives.
Unsurprisingly, the album has impeccable flow from song to song. 3.15.20 feels like a continuous story, a plea for sanity and safety in these trying times, jumping between moments of neo-soul, throwback hip-hop, and afro-futurism that stuns the listener with . Gambino wants to escape the violence on “47.48”, and the dialogue between Gambino and his son, Legend, during the song’s outro is equally gutting and inspiring. It is clear that Gambino wants you to finish this album with a better understanding of not just the world, but of your place in it.
By the time the abrasive “53.49” starts, with Gambino yelling and serenading us simultaneously, with phrases like “There is love in every moment/Under the sun”, the song, and the album, are over. At the end of it all, I’m left holding back tears.
We constantly feel like we are running out of time every day, and whether Glover is experiencing a mid-life crisis or is just overwhelmed by our troubling times, the feeling of love and bliss is present throughout. The whole record thrives on the ideas of living in the now, enjoying the moments we have and who we have these moments with. The need to understand yourself, your life, your loved ones, drives us every day, and as Gambino finishes what may be his final album, I’m left knowing I have a stronger understanding of his world, and of my own, than I ever have before. It’s a raw sound and maturity we’ve never heard from Gambino before, and it has truly left me awestruck.
Listen to 3.15.20 below: