Childish Gambino ‘Awaken, My Love!’ Album Review [Opinion]

Earlier this week on December 2, Donald Glover released his third studio album, Awaken, My Love!, under his rap name, Childish Gambino. Awaken, My Love! is an eleven-track, 48-minute album with two singles, “Me and Your Mama” and “Redbone.”

Gambino marketed Awaken My Love! with a three-day concert at Joshua Tree dubbed Pharos. Gambino also released a Pharos app where users could buy tickets and find out details about the upcoming concert. As reported by Complex, Gambino recently updated the Pharos app with virtual reality footage from his three-day gig at Joshua Tree.

The multi-talented Glover has a list of credits as long and robust as any creative mind in the world right now. In addition to a handful of mixtapes and his two previous studio albums, Camp and Because the Internet, Glover also has acting credits in Magic Mike XXL, The Martian, 30 Rock, Community, and Girls, as well as writing credits on Mystery Team and 30 Rock. Glover even has two stand-up comedy specials to his name.

Donald Glover

Most recently, Glover has been in the news for his hit show Atlanta and for landing the coveted role of Lando Calrissian in a Star Wars spin-off film.

On FX’s critically acclaimed show Atlanta, Glover has credits as an actor, writer, director, and executive producer. As Atlanta’s main character, Earnest “Earn” Marks, Glover plays the role of manager to his cousin, Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles, an up and coming rapper in the Atlanta area. Earn and Alfred are able to capitalize off of the success of a hit song from Paper Boi that gets radio play on an Atlanta station. Paper Boi’s single sounds like a number of viral Atlanta rap songs that have come out in past years, think “Versace” by Migos or “Lemonade” by Gucci Mane. The soundtrack on Atlanta features artists that Earn and Paper Boi would undoubtedly listen to, including Yo Gotti, Migos, Cousin Stizz, and Kodak Black.

Audiences who listen to Awaken, My Love! in hopes of finding songs similar to those featured on Atlanta, or even songs similar to early Childish Gambino projects, will be disappointed. While Awaken My Love! may still be considered hip-hop, it is certainly not rap.

On previous work, and even during an infamous freestyle on Sway’s Universe, a popular hip-hop radio show, Gambino has shown the ability to be a competent rapper with solid punchlines, intelligent word play, and impeccable flow. Despite Gambino’s talent as a rapper, it would be foolish to think that a man who jumps from project to project, and medium to medium, would stick to a specific genre for too long.

Awaken My Love! ditches the familiar themes and sound of hip-hop for something much different. Awaken My Love! features Gambino crooning rather than rapping, and switches rap beats for wailing guitars, gospel choruses, and psychedelic funk-inspired melodies akin to Geroge Clinton in the 1970s. On Awaken My Love!, Gambino touches on topics of love, parenthood, and race

Awaken My Love! is an experimental album for Gambino, a fore into a new sound. Like most experimental projects, Awaken My Love! has its ups and downs. The single “Me and Your Mama” is a triumph, a spacey melody precedes a guitar-laden, funk beat change that features a singing gospel and intense, howling vocals from Glover. Conversely, “California” fails on Awaken. “California” features a calypso melody that Glover sings over in an unbearable accent. Only lasting two minutes and 45 seconds, at least “California” ends quickly.

As Glover’s career has grown, so has his music. While the risks taken on Awaken My Love! are not always executed perfectly, the curiosity and creativity Gambino employs on his latest project are admirable.

Awaken My Love! is available on multiple streaming services.

Childish Gambino on stage.

[Featured Image by John Davisson/Invision/AP Images]