Childish Gambino – Awaken, My Love! Review

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Childish Gambino has been absent on the music front for a while now, with his last studio LP Because The Internet dropping three years ago in 2013. After an impressive year on the small-screen however, Donald Glover is back and ready to impress with his latest project Awaken, My Love! Is Gambino able to translate his visual success to audio?

The set begins with a strikingly different arrangement than we’re used to from the free-spirit. A tranquil production initiates the intro-track ‘Me and Your Mama‘, with a lullaby like repetition filling the listener’s ear. Before long however that’s eradicated and were introduced to a loud bass and drum led backing, with rock infusion in places as Childish Gambino is ready to re-introduce himself as an artist. “This is the, end of us, sleeping with the moon and the stars” the singer growls. The rough, around the edges rock vibe naturally fits and is enticing in its presentation, a very promising start to Awaken, My Love.

Keeping to the instrumentals, but slightly more laid back throughout, Gambino is ready to ‘Have Some Love‘ at this point. “Really love one another, it’s so hard to find”, he sings as the funky, soulful backing aides his rhetoric. The song itself is very disco, 80’s and could easily have fit in the playlist for the Netflix hit The Get Down. This new but energetic presence is feel good and Donald firmly proves in just two songs that his artistic experimentation is a positive thing here.

Moving onward a few numbers and we reach ‘Riot‘, another unconventional production [for the time] welcomes the listener. An obvious theme here is rebellion. “They tried to kill us // Love to say they feel us //But they won’t take my pride”. The track is filled with a euphoric vibe as the guitar riffs easily guide you through Gambino’s matter of fact sentiments. The two elements go extremely well together, and cements his awareness of musical arrangement. Kudos to everyone involved here.

One of the highlights on the already incredible project thus far is the single ‘Redbone‘ which follows. It’s soft and light production choice can send anyone to their dreams but with a specific narrative in mind, one of passion, and fulfilling their lover’s sexual desires. The ambient and mellow piano runs are pivotal to the mood of the track. Gambino at this point is riding on a wave which is too strong to collapse, he has gained full confidence of the listener here and is the conductor surrounded by quality music, production and lyrics.

Stand Tall‘ forms the final number of the LP and sonically, pieces of a more familiar Gambino are present. The studio style of his vocals sound more like that of Because The Internet, however he’s still surrounded by a sea of retro and laid back soundscapes. A wind instrument seems to be present throughout, which adds an interesting and exotic layering, also at intervals a choir interject adding a youthful edge to the track too. The perfect way to wrap up a stellar piece.

Childish Gambino has outdone himself with this project. What came as quite a surprise in terms of release date, gave even more surprises in direction, production and themes. Donald truly pushed the envelope in terms of creative direction and it paid off in a huge way. Hopefully when the next round of Grammy nominations come around in 2017 he’ll be rewarded for his efforts.

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