With the world on lockdown and many people stuck at home, a newly released album from Childish Gambino makes it easy to get your mind off of current worries.
By Brandon P. Rodriguez
While the majority of the world is currently going through a great time of uncertainty and people are forced to stay at home in order to self-quarantine themselves, the always versatile and multi-talented Donald Glover, also known as Childish Gambino, released his fourth studio album on Sunday.
“3.15.20” is Gambino’s latest project, and although most people are currently thinking about a global pandemic, Gambino’s mind has been on other issues lately. These issues include the uncertainties of life, the beauty and baggage of being black, global warming, the rise of social media, parenting and self-love.
In what Glover has suggested will be the final project under the Gambino moniker, many fans expected the new album to release on the day that the title of the album suggests – March 15, 2020.
However, back on March 8, without warning, Gambino’s entire new album streamed on a continuous loop on the website DonaldGloverPresents.com. Within hours, the stream was taken down and the music was gone. Once March 15 had passed, the same website had a countdown timer on it, leading to the March 22 release at 12 a.m. (PST).
Now the album is available across all platforms for everyone to enjoy. One thing is clear when listening to Gambino’s newest music: just like the artist himself, the sound and style of his music has evolved over time and has matured, along with the messages behind the music. The pop-rap sounds that Gambino began his musical career with are gone. In “3.15.20,” Gambino mashes and combines the sounds reminiscent of his childhood – classic R&B, soul, brass jazz, funk and gospel.
Many of the instrumentals and overall vibes sound reminiscent to some of the songs from “Black Panther: The Album.” This may be due to writers Ludwig Göransson and DJ Dahi, who worked on both projects, but have been within Gambino’s inner circle for years and have greatly contributed to the evolution of Gambino’s style of music.
After a trippy harmony-induced introduction, the album opens with “Algorhythm” – a song consisting of a twitchy beat and robotic vocals, mixed with ‘90’s R&B rhythm as Gambino interpolates the hook from Zhané’s 1993 hit, “Hey Mr. DJ,” changing a classic club-dance song into something with darker undertones.
The “Algorhythm” is followed by “Time,” a mellow and reflective track featuring vocals from Ariana Grande, where both artists ponder about the inevitable end of life, which everyone knows will soon come, but they still won’t be ready for when it does.
These are the only two tracks throughout the 12-song project that have been given names. The rest are labeled by the start of their timestamp throughout the 57-minute runtime of the album. This includes the climate-change themed single, “Feels Like Summer” that Gambino released back in 2018 on Spotify as part of a two-song “Summer Pack,” which has been renamed as “42.26.”
Perhaps the most popular track on the album so far is “12.38,” a playful R&B story that has Gambino singing about a romantic adventure with a female love interest. After Gambino finishes his tale, he tosses the soulful track over to Kadhja Bonet, Ink and 21 Savage to help finish it off. Yet Gambino continues to show his romantic side with “24.19” – a sweet message of gratitude and appreciation to his lover and a song that sounds like the apparent sequel to Gambino’s 2016 hit, “Redbone,” from his previous album, “Awaken, My Love!”
In “19:10,” Gambino appears to still have unfinished business since his 2018 mega-hit, “This Is America,” where living in a country with racism, police harassment and being targeted for being black are the main subject matters. But unlike “This Is America,” Gambino uses the hardships and discrimination to find the beauty of being African-American – “To be beautiful is to be hunted / I can’t change the truth, I can’t get you used to this” – Gambino sings in the chorus, warning a younger generation of what they may eventually experience, in the same way that Glover reflects on how his father warned him as a child at the beginning of the track.
In “47.48,” Gambino shows his concern for the rise in violence in a digital world where people seem so disconnected from each other, while teaching the importance of self-love to his young son, Legend Glover, whose voice can be heard in a conversation in the outro of the song.
The message of self-love carries over into the final track on the album, “53:49,” a high-energy, rejoiceful song about loving life – “Said I feel good, look good / East Atlanta, Hollywood / Never said it even though I prolly should / I said I love me, I said I love me” – Gambino exclaims as he switches between raping and singing over a fast-paced beat.
Gambino’s latest project has elements that can reach numerous audiences and generations at the same time, whether through his lyricism, hard beats and smooth melodies, or his numerous vocal ranges. It is music that is easy to get lost in and can take your mind off the worries of the world… at least for a little while.
There is something strangely comforting in this album. Maybe it helps bring a sense of normalcy at this point in time? Maybe it helps us appreciate the smaller things in life? One thing is certain: With all the madness in the world right now, “3.15.20” may be the first great album – possibly the first great anything in general – to come out of 2020 and of the new decade.
Rodriguez is an APU alum who contributes to ZU News.