Review: Childish Gambino takes 180-degree turn with ‘Awaken, my love!’

    Donald Glover, better known by his stage name, Childish Gambino, has become known for his versatility in the entertainment business, from his work as an actor and producer to his stand-up comedy, and of course, his music. Gambino’s latest album “Awaken, My love!” departs from his previous hip-hop and rap focused style to experiment with a creative fusion of soul, psychedelia and funk. 

    The album is seemingly dedicated to Gambino’s newborn son through songs like “Baby Boy”, “Me and Your Mama” and “The Night I Met Your Mama” that suggest he is singing directly to his child. 

    “Awaken, My Love!” has a cohesive message centering around hope and nostalgia. Gambino incorporates a groovy motif throughout the album that ties individual songs together to create a seamless collective work.

    Here are in-depth examinations of the tracks that stand out from the rest of the album.

    Me and Your Mama

    The first single released from the album, “Me and Your Mama” starts slowly, opening like a lullaby with chime-like and dreamy synths.

    A choir loop enters as more high-pitched synths join in the background. The original synth ostinato continues throughout.

    The percussion, provided by hi-hats and snaps, keep a slow and melodic R&B rhythm. The choir’s vocalization is airy and disjointed, repeating an unintelligible melody.

    For the first two minutes, this pattern is repeated, setting a mood that feels relaxed and redundant. 

    As the second minute comes to a close, a fast, repeating beat enters and gradually grows in volume. At 2:02, a blues-tinged guitar chord blasts out, smothering the droning choir and starting a new, funkier section of the song.

    Suddenly, Gambino’s wailing voice enters the vocal stage, screaming an anguished whine alongside the bold and buzzy cadence of the guitar. Soon after this begins, an ensemble of soulful voices transform the song into a gospel rock anthem.

    Gambino’s grizzly and distorted voice howls heartbroken and bluesy lyrics about the perils of love as an acoustic guitar and synths join in, the choir harmonizing in the background.

    The song slows down to a mellow and soft ballad, complete with the tender chords from an organ as the low warbles of a synth fade into silence.

    The dichotomous sounds form an enjoyable song that exhibits how much Gambino has changed from his first studio album, “Camp.” 

    Redbone

    Redbone, the second single to be released from this album, is a masterfully done reconstruction of funk to accentuate an enhanced, deeper and more sober single.

    The melody strolls at an andante tempo with synths chattering while kits roll at a walking pace. Gambino’s falsetto voice contrasts and complements the deep bass and soulful feeling of the melody. His stretched out screeches evoke emotion, especially adding a forlorn quality to the sound. 

    The chorus transforms the low synths and funky melody into a more orchestral climax, where Gambino’s voice and the harmony of the choir seem to exchange dialogue and emotion.  

    The song utilizes pop instrument with a slower, moderate tempo to create a sort of futuristic feeling that is both uplifting and melancholy.

    Redbone’s beautiful melody paints a picture of a casual, groovy stroll down a boulevard on a late, starry night. It shows Gambino’s ability to create slow-paced songs with vocals that take a backseat, letting the complex layers of innovative instruments guide the listener.

    Boogieman

    The attention to detail in this track is evident. The chorus of voices starts high, dominating other instruments at the beginning of the song. 

    Gradually, the lower frequency becomes louder as the voices get lower until the piece reaches a tenor that matches and gets drowned out by the underlying drum. This technique helps create a streamlined transition from vocals to instrumental.

    Boogieman was one of the songs that stood out as an homage to boogie rock and the high energy dance music from the 1970’s funk scene. The piece is an innovative fusion of old-school dance music with a synth-garnished modern flare, making it the most fast-paced and energetic song on the album.

    Baby Boy

    This song is an ode to Gambino’s recently born son. “Baby Boy” sounds like a lullaby, confessing the artist’s desires and fears of parenthood. The vocals feel like a parent lulling their child to sleep, caressing and mellow, yet optimistic, giving the listener serenity and peace in its’ sound. 

    The use of the glockenspiel is appropriate for a sort of simple, melodic feeling. Similarly,  Gambino uses the clavinet to mimic a crying baby with the “wah wah” sound of the chords serving as the bass line for the song. However, the use of guitar does not match the feeling of a lullaby at times. 

    The ending simple instrumental solo immerses the listener in a calming, sleepy feeling.

    Two songs to Avoid

    1. Zombies

    “Zombies” gives off a thriller vibe and is reminiscent of a 1990’s pop song. There is some interesting use of the rain stick but the instrumental tends not to match the feeling of lyrics, which are unnecessarily creepy and uninspired. Overall, the song feels far from innovative or experimental. 

    2. Terrified
    “Terrfied” is well-intentioned but the lackluster and unflattering pitchiness in the chorus jars the listener. However, the end shines with minimal melody and an impressive soul back and forth between Gambino and his predominantly female guest choir. 

    All in all this album is refreshing and we would highly recommend it to any reader.

    List of Songs:                                                        

    1. Me and Your Mama                               6:19
    2. Have Some Love                                     3:44
    3. Boogieman                                               3:36
    4. Zombies                                                    4:41
    5. Riot                                                            2:05
    6. Redbone                                                   5:26
    7. California                                                 2:45
    8. Terrified                                                   4:15
    9. Baby Boy                                                  6:22
    10. The Night Me and Your Mama Met   3:34
    11. Stand Tall                                                6:10

    Album Length: 48:57

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