Hearing Aide: Childish Gambino ‘Awaken, My Love!’

It’s a cultivation of everything interesting about music. There’s no other way to describe it because there are so many influences, some that the majority of his followers probably don’t know exist. But if it were to be described in a genre, it’d be something along the lines of this tongue twister: Psychedelic funk, rock and R&B with hints of new-age rap and electronic undertones. Unfortunately, he hasn’t created something revolutionary, he’s recreated the sound of the most beloved musicians of all time, and missed the mark on a track or two, but nonetheless has brought back one of the great forgotten sounds of music.

It’s nothing like his older works which were heavily influenced by modern rap. But it makes for the perfect platform on which to build a fun, but very familiar sound. This is not to say his prior albums were simple, but they lacked instrumental color and were driven lyrically. Before the song-by-song analysis begins, some background knowledge is needed to understand how talented Donald Glover really is.

He is not a stranger to the arts: He had two full albums and a few single releases prior to this one, he appears as Troy Barnes on Community as well as a starring role in Atlanta, a series which he created. He will also soon star as a young Lando Calrissian in an upcoming Star Wars movie. Point is, the guy knows what he’s doing and he does it pretty well. But of course, such a drastic change in his falsetto will result in a few quirks, because as stated before, this album is nothing close to what he released in 2013-14.

Almost every track has the funky hooks of the classic 70’s funk bands but with the unpredictable musical direction of Zappa and even the ones that lack a little bit of complexity can still have some value to them.

The first track is a bit misleading, especially if a listener reads this review first. It’s called “Me and Your Mama” and it can be interpreted as a transition into this genre. It starts with a simple, spacey trap modern rap beat, similar to his former albums, that suddenly drops into a completely different genre. It’s dramatic enough that it may sound like the next song on a shuffled Spotify playlist. The second part of the song is synonymous to that of Pink Floyd, with a slow, swaying groove, a female chorus ringing out in the background and some wailing guitar, that all fades out into something like Funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain” with echoing drums, and droning keys in the back. It’s an intense and perfect introduction to this album.

“Have Some Love” and “Boogieman” have strong funk influences, with some tricky drumming, catchy breakdowns and that angelic chorus, all garnished with the perfect amount of spaciness. As stated before though, the sound is eerily similar to the funk Gods of the 70’s. This is not to say that he’s not a creative person, he just hasn’t created anything revolutionary here, but his mind is in the right place.

“Zombies” is one of the tracks that may have “missed the mark.” It’s just weird. There isn’t a lot of musical complexity to it making the lyrics stand out more. But they’re not about anything deep or inspirational. It’s about zombies. “All I see is zombies, feeding all around us, all they eat are people… We’re eating you for profit… there is no safe place to hide.” He’s most likely not talking about The Walking Dead type of creature, but the lack of lyrical eloquence kind of ruins this song. That and it sound like he has a stuffy nose when he’s singing. But they can’t all be winners, as the saying goes.

“Riot” comes next and brings back the technical funk heard at the beginning of the album, but isn’t necessarily a rioting song. It is still fantastic and fun to listen to though. “Redbone” was one of the singles released before the full album and was the most listened to track on the album according to Spotify. This is a fairly unique one, a little low on energy but it is also a love song, and pretty good one at that. It builds up nicely and has very colorful instrumentation making this a key track.

As if there weren’t enough hard left turns, “California” pops up next and again gives the impression that the listener hit the shuffle button by accident. It’s a pretty adorable track that sounds like Jason Mraz, Sublime and Glover had a kid…. A really weird kid. It’s a tight sound with a strange association of instruments, including what sounds like glass bottles being blown into. It’s a key track not because everyone will love it, but it just further shows how Glover is taking a totally new direction with his music.

Glover has got the nail into the board, but he isn’t striking it on the head just yet. At least he’s on the right board though. This must have been a fun project for him, and it’s very obvious that he’s not through with rap, but he’s moving onto more complex projects. Unfortunately, his old audience may not follow him, but he will undoubtedly gain some more attention with this collection.
Key Tracks: Me and Your Mama, Have Some Love, RedBone, The Night Me and Your Mama Met