Childish Gambino - "Awaken, My Love!" [Review]
In order to stay relevant in this ever-changing music industry, an artist must always be willing to reinvent themselves. Those who have achieved longevity in their respective genres have remained consistent in the quality of work that they release, and were able to adapt to the new styles and trends that develop over time. The musicians that have truly been great, however, tend to be innovative and manage to create a body of work that moves ahead of the curve. What is most difficult, is being able to stay in tune with the times, while in the same breath not stray away from who they are as an artist.
My official introduction to Donald Glover was in November of 2011, via his Comedy Central stand-up special, Weirdo; since then, my perception of him hasn't changed, only increased. I was familiar with the work he had done on 30 Rock, as well as Community, but completely unaware of the amazing potential that he had as an artist. He's been able to balance his career both as an actor and musician, while still maintaining his artistic integrity. From his first album Camp, all the way to STN MTN/Kauai, Donald Glover has continuously pushed the envelope, and given his listeners something to look forward to with each passing project. His most recent body of work, remained true to my aforementioned statement focusing on growth and progression.
On December 2, 2016 Mr. Glover (also known as Childish Gambino), released his third studio album Awaken, My Love!. Though the substance and content remained, sonically he went in an entirely different direction. This project exuded the feel of the late-70s funk era, channeling the sounds of artists such as George Clinton and even some remnants of Isaac Hayes. Only 48 minutes long, AML is an ode to the time in America when the genre of Soul reigned supreme. This album is more of a musical if anything; with Gambino focusing less on vocals in some instances while he lets the instrumentation speak to the listener. The introductory track "Me and Your Mama", is a perfect example of the contrasting extremes on the LP. The mellow beat remains at the forefront until about the 2:00 mark, then it switches to a more aggressive pitch while Gambino provides scathing lyrics. Even yhough it is only 11 tracks, what AML doesn't give you in quantity it makes up for in quality.
The album's stand-out song "Redbone", sounds as if the legendary Bootsy Collins was present in the studio during it's recording; that, along with Childish Gambino's Prince-like vocal tone on the track, makes for a very good listen. "Boogieman" is reminiscent of the intro, with the varying pitches during the verse and the bridge, and "Baby Boy" gives that smooth vibe of a warm summer day amidst the company of loved ones. The album's only low point is that of "California"; it's upbeat tempo and pop-like melody seems out of place in comparison to the rest of the project.
In retrospect, Awaken, My Love! is refreshing, and a break from the norm. Even though it's primary goal is to pay homage to the legendary Funk/Soul era of the 70s, Gambino still manages to make to the total feel of the album modern. It maintains it's cohesion from the first track, all the way to the last. Though I do enjoy hearing Gambino showcase his lyricism from time to time, I had no problem with him exploring different terrain, artistically. If you haven't already, check out the album on iTunes.
Happy Friday, and enjoy your weekend.
- Okla (@coolhandoak)