Review Summary: this is donald.
I feel like Childish Gambino and Donald Glover are two of the same. Obviously, being the same person, this is blatant, but most separate their rap persona from their real life persona. Eminem isn’t actually going to go on a murderous rampage, and Kanye doesn’t actually think that him and Taylor might still have sex. But Glover, wherever he is in his career, typically reflects it in his music. Camp
saw a brash, all-over-the-place, stary-eyed kid with plenty to prove and equally as much to say. Because the Internet
showed the more self-aware, secure Glover; filled to the brim with wit and character. And now, we arrive at Awaken, My Love!
, showing Donald (and in essence Childish) as the intelligent, grown-up movie star whose life is full of adventure and happiness. And what an adventurous and happy man he is.
Although Childish has shown glimpses of what his capabilities are regarding soul and melody (Flight of the Navigator
anyone?), nothing compares to the character and heart showcased throughout Awaken…
. Lead single Me and Your Mama
shows his incredible ear for melody, drawing comparison to pop icon Prince in the way he weaves and soars throughout the song via his much improved vocals; the music is so interconnected with the vocals that the up-and-down of both feels so natural. Not only does Childish provide some amazing vocals, his implication of gang vocals for much of Awaken…
adds a surprisingly beautiful layer and never feels forced or overdone. On follow-up track Have Some Love
, with its groovy bass and drum line, the gang vocals are used throughout, but Gambino also leaves some space for himself to belt out some incredible high notes. And the soulful beauty doesn’t stop there; it only picks up on Boogieman
, the guitar line guiding the track through its spacey atmosphere.
Sexy is perhaps an odd descriptive, particularly for Childish Gambino, but it seemingly fits like no other to describe much of the performances on Awaken…
. The vocals throughout Zombie
and the way it dances around the electronics and bass line; the chaotic Riot
with its soaring highs; and Redbone
, with its filtered vocals and delicate piano and bass incorporation. All of this can perhaps be attributed to producer Ludwig Goransson. Having worked on all previous Childish records, along with TV shows such as Community and New Girl, his ability to incorporate so much and make it ebb and flow as seamlessly as it does is admirable in its own right. Glover’s vocals, whether they be altered or incorporated as is, maintains its power in performance without detracting from the marvellous instrumental performances.
Although Childish abandons his rap past, it’s seemingly for the greater good. Every song on the album could potentially contain a rap verse, but they would feel forced and unnecessary. Unlike Because the Internet
, where there were perhaps too many ideas to result in a satisfying record, Awaken…
sticks to its soul and R&B roots throughout and is the better for it. The ‘instrumental’ The Night Me and Your Mama Met
puts a picture in the mind of the listener of just that; meeting someone you know you want to spend the rest of your life with. The slow build-up, from ukulele to vocals to soulful guitar solo is so incredibly done the listener has no troubles getting lost in the moment. And all of this leads to the finale, Stand Tall
. Perhaps the best showcase of what Awaken…
is really about, Childish soars over a subtle guitar line, before the middle of the song slows down and auto-tunes its way to the final two minutes, where he once again hits the highs and the listener experiences the song at hand.
Perhaps the only detractor from the near-perfect Awaken…
, with its somewhat annoying auto-tuned and forced vocals, but regardless, Childish has found his calling in soul. His incredible vocal performances throughout, in conjunction with a stellar instrumental production courtesy of Ludwig Goransson, conveys the change Donald Glover as a person has experienced since Because the Internet
. With a wife, child, and brand new vision on life, both Donald Glover and Childish Gambino have gone through a change that is well worth experiencing for yourself.