Childish Gambino – Awaken My Love Review 

Donald Glover is a man of many talents. He can write music or television shows, he can rap, sing and make you laugh etc. With all of the various TV and Film projects he’s got on at the moment, it seems like a feat in itself that here we have his third studio album as Childish Gambino with Awaken My Love. There was a relatively short release schedule from first single to album and with December being a rather sparse time for new releases, this album will certainly occupy more attention then it might have done in April or September. Whilst this also makes the spotlight burn just that brighter, with increasingly bored journalists baying for critical blood, it’s not hard to imagine Donald Glover taking it all in his stride before moving on to his next project. 

As for his first single ‘Me and Your Mama’? Our Katie Hayes had a fair bit of wisdom on offer for it… The focus this time is on the dark and atmospheric, yet stunningly beautiful musical arrangement and Glover’s haunting vocals. It feels entirely different to anything we’ve heard from the rapper before, but there are enough familiar elements in there that fans of his usual musical style won’t feel alienated. It feels mature, soulful, bold and brash- yet unrestrained and perhaps even a little unrefined in places. However, in losing some of his trademark silliness and crudeness, Glover may have also lost some of his charm. Gone are the memorable one liners, such as “Too fly- Jeff Goldblum” that we have come to expect from a Childish Gambino track, and while the sound this has been replaced with is undoubtedly incredible, at times it feels like something is missing. Along with the fact that 2 minutes of this 6 minute track are taken up by a meandering, confused intro, this makes for something that doesn’t feel quite as listenable as his previous efforts. ‘Me and Your Mama’ is definitely a track that grows more interesting with every listen, but it’s not necessarily going to be your favourite Childish Gambino track. 

‘Redbone’ delivers coolness and Pop beauty full of luscious and flowering melodies with a buoyant bass line. The track is effortless and yet so dynamic and is topped by Glover’s simply exquisite falsetto which ties everything together. The psych-soul feel and production of the track is enhanced by the wiry, hazy riffs at the close of the track. The fact that so many different comparisons have been drawn to the track from a plethora of different styles shows the versatility of this track. ‘Have Some Love’ lets loose a rumbling piece of Funk with Soulful injections that included Glover delivering frantic and strained falsettos to balanace off against the low lying bass lines and smooth instrumentals on the whole. There is a lot going on at times and the song loses it’s brilliant flow at times, but to hear his scream from amongst the musical crowd is a highlight that makes it worthwhile.

‘Boogieman’ is a theatrical track enthused with a tearing electricity from the shredding guitars and bold vocal harmonies which drive the song here and Glover is often responding to them in the track as opposed to leading them. A clever move to create another energetic experience. ‘Zombies’ does the same job with a Wings-Esque meandering riff with the basic back beat behind it and the piano chords cascading from it. From there, are shots of deep, reverberating electronica and the piano chords warp at the fringes and when locked together with Glovers smooth delivery, it makes for a well thought out track that you wished had a never ending outro. Some of the closing tracks don’t work in this captivating manner and often reach destinations that are seemingly only in Donald’s head and after being given such joyous experiences earlier on, you have to settle for flashes of brilliance within a confusing myriad of songs. Nevertheless, the album is a great one and undoubtedly his best. He puts his own take on Funk, Soul and Pop and the result is eccentric and infectious. The album on the whole doesn’t quite deliver on the potential suggested by the first two singles, but most of the album tracks required another listen before making sense and when they do, they are wondrous pieces of music. It has weak links where perhaps we get lost in Glover’s musical ambition, but its definitely worth taking the time to breathe in the whole album. 

Childish Gambino – Awaken My Love = 8.5/10

Owen Riddle & Katie Hayes 

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